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Iraq earns praise but lacks full Cabinet

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on October 20, 2009. UPI/Aude Guerrucci/Pool
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on October 20, 2009. UPI/Aude Guerrucci/Pool | License Photo

BAGHDAD, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama praised Iraq's new government in a statement Tuesday but 13 seats on the 42-member Cabinet are temporary holdovers.

Iraqi lawmakers, after a one-day delay, announced Tuesday they approved a new government headed by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, ending a record-breaking political deadlock that followed inconclusive March elections.

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Obama in a statement from the White House said he extended his congratulations to Iraqi leaders on breaking the political impasse.

"Their decision to form an inclusive partnership government is a clear rejection of the efforts by extremists to spur sectarian division," the president said.

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Lawmakers approved 29 ministers including Maliki for the new government. Maliki didn't present a full list of Cabinet ministers, however, earning scorn from rivals in Parliament, al-Jazeera reports.

The deal came after weekend wrangling over key positions and a decision to allow lawmakers accused of having ties to Saddam Hussein back onto the political stage.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, an influential Sunni leader accused of having Baathist ties, will serve as a deputy prime minister in the new Iraqi government, al-Jazeera adds.

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Mutlaq is a frequent critic of Maliki, blasting the Shiite prime minister for his close ties to Iran. The decision to bar Mutlaq from politics was led by Ahmed Chalabi, a former Pentagon favorite. Maliki, London's Guardian newspaper reports, doesn't favor a political role for the ex-CIA point man.

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Meanwhile, Iyad Allawi, who led his Iraqiya slate to a narrow March win, is expected to serve as the head of a newly created national security council.

Until recently, the former interim prime minister had threatened to walk away from the political scene but struck a conciliatory tone after the Tuesday announcement.

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"We, in the Iraqiya list, announce our full support to this government," al-Jazeera quoted him as saying. "We will cooperate with the best intentions as long as our political partners treat us with the same spirit."

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