Negotiations On Government Al Zaman

Negotiations on Government

Al-Zaman/ AFP /DPA says that the new Iraqi military exchanged fire with the Syrians Monday at the Iraqi-Syrian border. The outgoing Iraqi government had accused Syria of allowing guerrillas to infiltrate Iraq from its territory. Syria denied the allegations.

A huge fire broke out in the field of the giant Bay Hasan oil field.

Guerrillas struck at northern pipelines in Iraq on Monday, and killed a US serviceman with a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad.

The Financial Times reports from Baghdad that the Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, has agreed to give the Defense Ministry to the Sunni Arabs. A dispute remains as to whether Sunnis also get 5 other cabinet posts and a vice premiership, or whether they only get a total of 4 cabinet posts. AP says that the Sunni Arabs, for their part, have dropped a demand that ex-Baathists be given high posts (something to which the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq have pronounced themselves unalterably opposed).

Al-Zaman/ Reuters conveys to the Iraqi audience in Arabic the story from the New York Times that Secretary of State Condi Rice called up President Jalal Talabani and urged him to hurry up the process of forming a government. (Since the government has to be formed in conjunction with prime minister-designate Ibrahim Jaafari, Rice was probably calling the wrong person.) Al-Zaman quotes Dawa Party official Jawad al-Maliki as saying that there remained substantial disputes among Iraqi leaders over the formation of the government, despite US pressure. He said he thought the Sunni Arabs would end up with five or six cabinet posts, including Defense and Culture, as well as possibly a vice-premiership.

Maliki said that each list included in the government will put forward three names for each cabinet post that it is allotted, and Jaafari will choose the one he wants. He said much of the competition for posts at the moment is not between lists but within them. The Iraqiya List of Iyad Allawi appears most unlikely to form part of the government, Maliki said.

This wire service report suggests that the deliberations of the Iraqi parliament Monday were silly, concentrating on whether imported flour was too metallic, and on whether the Koran was being quoted exactly. Actually, the quality of flour and the precise quotation of the Koran might well be rather more important to most Iraqis than which Sunni Arab is appointed to be minister of sports.

It isn’t really news, but the Christian Science Monitor reminds us that the road to the airport from downtown Baghdad is extremely dangerous. The supposed American manufacturers of Reality in other peoples’ countries at the US embassy cannot travel it and have to be helicoptered in and out.

Earth to the Kansas City Star: They don’t speak Arabic in Afghanistan.

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