An Iraqi legislator was shot and killed by militants who stormed into her house in a middle-class neighborhood in eastern Baghdad Wednesday, underscoring fears that the political impasse has emboldened insurgents to step up deadly attacks in recent weeks, after a lull following the Jan. 30 elections.
Hours later, Iraq's prime minister-designate presented his proposal for a broad-based Cabinet that draws in the country's main ethnic and religious groups to the presidential council on Wednesday in a step toward ending a crippling political stalemate.
Lamia Abed Khadouri al-Sakri (search), who was elected to the National Assembly on the ticket of outgoing Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List (search) party, was shot and killed by militants in her house in Baghdad's Hay Aur neighborhood, police Capt. Ali al-Obeidi said.
She was the first member of the parliament elected on Jan. 30 to be slain by insurgents as they target senior lawmakers and Iraqi politicians in a bid to further destabilize reconstruction efforts in the country.
"We believe it is politically motivated. She was killed in her home," said Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie (search). The attack is being investigated and police are taking precautions to protect other legislators, he said.
The 36-member Cabinet list, which includes seven women, will be presented in the National Assembly on Thursday, incoming Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (search) said.
Al-Jaafari did not release any names on the list, but said it included representatives of all the country's major groups, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
"The Iraqis will find that this government has religious, ethnic, political, and geographic variety, in addition to the participation of women," al-Jaafari told reporters on the steps of his office. "Now that the process has started, we will spare no effort to bring back a smile to children's faces."
President Jalal Talabani (search) and his two vice presidents must sign off on the proposal before the assembly votes on the new government. Talabani already has indicated he would not exercise his veto, and parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani (search) told the 275-member assembly earlier in the day that they would be asked to vote on the new Cabinet on Thursday.
Bickering over ministerial candidates that had threatened to further delay the announcement of the new Iraqi government continued until the last minute.
Al-Jaafari said he has proposed a 36-member Cabinet — including three deputy premiers who lawmakers said would come from each of Iraq's main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions. A fourth deputy could also be added, al-Jaafari said, offering no explanation.
The Cabinet also would have 17 Shiite Arab ministers, eight Kurds, six Sunni Arabs and one Christian, fulfilling promises by leaders of the Shiite majority to share power among ethnic and religious groups, lawmakers from al-Jaafari's Iraqi United Alliance said.
A formal handover between outgoing Allawi and his successor will take place in the coming days, al-Jaafari said.
Shiite lawmakers said Allawi's Iraqi List party, which has 40 seats in the National Assembly, was not included in the new Cabinet. They said they had given up trying to balance Allawi's demands with those of Sunni factions that could offer help in beginning talks with Sunni militants, who are believed to be the backbone of the insurgency.
Many Shiites have long resented the secular Allawi, accusing his outgoing administration of including former Baathists in the government and security forces.
Among the other last-minute points of contention was the winning Shiite alliance's opposition to some Sunni Arab candidates who they believe were former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party (search), which brutally repressed the majority Shiites and Kurds.
Infighting within al-Jaafari's Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance (search) — the largest bloc in parliament — over who would be oil minister also stalled progress, said Sami al-Askari, a Shiite lawmaker.
Shiites make up 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people. The Kurds make up 20 percent, and the Sunni Arabs, who largely stayed away from the elections either in boycott of the vote or for fear of attacks, are roughly 15 percent to 20 percent.
After a postelection lull in violence, insurgents have staged a series of well-coordinated attacks that have inflicted heavy casualties in recent weeks.
Gunmen in Baghdad on Wednesday opened fire on the convoy of Brig. Gen. Jihad Luaibi, in charge of civil defense at the Interior Ministry, as he was on his way to work, wounding him and killing two of his bodyguards, Iraqi police said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi militants threatening to kill three Romanian journalists and their Iraqi-American translator, who were abducted March 28 in Baghdad, extended their deadline for Romania to withdraw its 800 troops until Wednesday at 6 p.m. (10 a.m. EDT), Al-Jazeera television reported. The deadline passed without any word from the insurgents.
The station had broadcast a new video showing the three Romanians — Marie Jeanne Ion, Sorin Miscoci and Ovidiu Ohanesian — sitting in handcuffs with pistols pointed at their heads. Translator Mohammed Monaf was shown sitting alone, also with a pistol to his head. Miscoci and Monaf were wearing orange jumpsuits. Militants often have dressed their captives in such suits before killing them.
Monaf pleaded to President Bush and the American people to save his life, the Al-Jazeera presenter said. The station did not say how it received the tape or when.
More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since April 2004, and more than 30 were killed by their kidnappers.
In other violence:
— A roadside bomb targeting a joint U.S.-Iraqi military patrol exploded Wednesday in Samarra, killing an Iraqi soldier and injuring three others, the Iraqi police said. There were no American casualties, the U.S. military said.
— Shiite cleric Qassem Abdul Majid was gunned down by unknown militants in the holy city of Najaf as he drove to work with his wife, police said.
— U.S. soldiers detained four suspects in Tikrit for an attack on a coalition base, the U.S. military said in a statement Wednesday.