BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's parliament on Thursday approved three new key ministers, including a Sunni Arab to head the defense ministry, ending a stalemate among Iraq's religious and ethnic groups over the crucial posts.
The three, including ministers for national security and interior, were sworn in after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the death of Al Qaeda in Iraq chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The new defense minister is Iraqi Army Gen. Abdul-Qader Mohammed Jassim al-Mifarji and Shiites Jawad al-Bolani for interior and Sherwan al-Waili for national security.
The posts are considered crucial for al-Maliki's government to implement a plan allowing Iraqi forces to take over security from the U.S.-led coalition within 18 months, opening the way for the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops.
Al-Mifarji, who is not affiliated with any Sunni Arab party, told the 275-member body that he graduated from the Iraqi military academy in 1969 and was thrown out of the military and Saddam Hussein's now outlawed Baath Party in 1991 after he criticized the invasion of Kuwait — which led to his conviction by a military court in 1994 and a seven year prison sentence.
"All my properties were confiscated. In 2003, my only house was returned. Then I joined the new Iraqi army as the commander of operations room and then commander of military operations in western Iraq, and finally the commando units of the infantry."
He said he was "not affiliated with any political party and as a defense minister I will work for all Iraqis and will not work according to my tribal, religious and ethnic background. I will be only an Iraqi and will spare no effort. If I find myself unqualified I will be the first one to quit."
Al-Bolani, the new interior minister, is an independent member of the dominant Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. He is an aeronautical engineering graduate from Baghdad's University of Technology, and said he was an engineer in the Iraqi air force until 1999.
Al-Waili is a member of the Iraqi Dawa Party, which is not related to the Dawa party of which the prime minister is a member. He graduated from Iraq's military school of engineering in 1979 and was jailed after the Shiite uprising of 1991 in Basra, southern Iraq. He later served as head of the provincial council in southern Nasiriyah, and then as undersecretary for public works and as an adviser for regional affairs in the national security ministry.
"My understanding is that the national security ministry must be an Iraqi one and to expand it's work, not just to fight terrorism but also to fight economic crimes," al-Waili said.