Key Obstacle in Forming Iraq Govt Resolved

Iraq's prime minister-designate said Tuesday the main stumbling blocks to forming a new Cabinet have been overcome and he expects to present his team to parliament for approval by the end of the week.

Nouri al-Maliki said representatives of the country's political parties had agreed on what factions would hold the "main posts" but were still discussing the distribution of "a few" of them. Those included the ministries of oil, trade and transportation, he said.

The incoming prime minister declined to spell out the distribution of ministries, including key posts of interior, which controls police, and defense, which runs the army. U.S. and British officials have insisted those posts go to people without ties to sectarian militias, believed responsible for many of the revenge killings of Sunnis and Shiites.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said he hoped to present the Cabinet to parliament by the end of the week. Parliament must approve each minister by a majority vote.

Since he was nominated prime minister last month, Al-Maliki has struggled to complete the final step in establishing the new Iraqi government.

U.S. officials hope the formation of a unity government will help calm sectarian tensions, lure Sunni Arabs away from the insurgency and eventually allow the withdrawal of some American forces.

"The direction we took, and which was agreed upon by the political groups, was that the two who will occupy these posts be independent and unaffiliated with a party or a militia," he said at a news conference.

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