Iraqi PM to Present New Ministers Sunday

Iraq's premier said Thursday he will present his choices for defense and interior ministers in three days as violence once again gripped the capital.

In Baghdad violence, seven mortar rounds hit houses in the predominantly Sunni Arab southern Dora district, killing nine civilians and wounding 40. And a bomb hidden in a plastic bag exploded on Tayaran square, less than a mile from the heavily guarded Green Zone, hitting a group of job-seeking construction workers as they ate breakfast. At least two people were killed and 18 wounded, police said.

The announcement by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came amid mounting pressure to fill the Cabinet posts -- seen as key to quelling violence and to Iraqi forces taking control of security from U.S.-led forces.

CountryWatch: Iraq

Al-Maliki said he would present his choice for the crucial security posts to parliament because disagreements among Iraq's political, ethnic and sectarian parties proved insurmountable. Talks had deadlocked over the background of the candidates. The Defense Ministry is to go to a Sunni Arab, the Interior Ministry to a Shiite.

The Shiite prime minister said "the names of the interior and defense ministers will be announced at parliament's next session" Sunday, ending two weeks of negotiations. The candidates must be approved by an overwhelming majority in the 275-member parliament.

Khalid al-Attiya, a member of al-Maliki's Dawa Party, said meetings would continue to try to reach consensus before Sunday's announcement, saying the plan to announce the names Sunday was aimed at "pressuring the blocs to reach agreement."

Three posts remained empty when al-Maliki's Cabinet was sworn in May 20 -- defense, interior and minister of state for national security. The posts, especially defense and interior, are considered crucial to al-Maliki's plan to curb the insurgency and take control of security from U.S.-led forces within 18 months. Such a takeover is a part of the overall American exit strategy that would allow the withdrawal of its 130,000 troops.

The prime minister confirmed that U.S. military commanders have moved about 1,500 combat troops from a reserve force in Kuwait into volatile Anbar province to help establish order in the insurgent hotbed stretching from Baghdad west to Syria. He described the deployment as short-term.

More than 4,000 Iraqis -- many of them civilians -- have been killed in war-related violence this year, including at least 936 in May, according to an AP count. That makes May the second deadliest month for Iraqis in the past year, after March.

The figures show that civilians, not security forces, are increasingly the casualties of violence. Eighty-two percent of war-related deaths recorded in May were civilians, compared with 61 percent in May 2005, when 746 were killed.

In other violence Thursday:

-- Baghdad police found the bullet-riddled body of a man wearing an Arab robe with his hands and legs bound, police Lt. Ali Abbas said.

-- A mortar round landed in the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government offices, but no casualties were reported.

-- Three gunmen shot to death two mechanics at their workshop in an industrial area in the al-Bayaa neighborhood in western Baghdad, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

--Eight mortar rounds landed on a vegetable market and nearby houses in southern Baghdad, wounding 13 people, police said.