New Iraqi Cabinet to Be Presented Saturday

Signaling a possible end to months of uncertainty after legislative elections, Shiite and Sunni deputies said Wednesday that Iraq's prime minister-designate is ready to present his Cabinet to parliament.

Nouri al-Maliki will present the Cabinet Saturday and the parliament "will convene to vote on each of al-Maliki's nominees and the government's program," Deputy Speaker Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shiite, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Sunni Arab Accordance Front said parliament "would be convened on Saturday to vote on al-Maliki's government."

The makeup of the Cabinet was not released.

Al-Dulaimi said he did not know what decision had been made regarding the key Defense and Interior ministries.

"I don't know whether it is complete yet," he said.

In testimony before a Senate committee on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he had been informed that al-Malaki has chosen his defense minister. "He has made a decision with respect to the minster of defense," Rumsfeld said, but he did not say who the choice was.

The two main Sunni Arab factions, which represent 55 seats in the 275-member parliament, had demanded they either be given or be allowed to appoint the defense minister.

In return, the dominant Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, with 130 seats, would get the Interior Ministry, which runs the police. Such a deal would balance out the two most powerful security ministries.

Al-Maliki "will present his government to the presidency today, and the presidency will refer it tomorrow to the parliamentary council," al-Attiyah said.

Sunni Arab deputies confirmed that a Cabinet list would be presented at a session Saturday, two days before the constitutionally mandated deadline.

Under the constitution, parliament — officially the Council of Representatives — must then approve each proposed minister by an absolute majority.

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces searched for a United Arab Emirates diplomat kidnapped in Baghdad, and a top official in the Persian Gulf country said the attack raised concerns about the country's widespread insecurity.

In other violence, three roadside bombs and a drive-by shooting targeted Iraqi forces in Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding two soldiers and six policemen. The bodies of two Iraqi men, handcuffed and shot in the head, were found in western Baghdad.

Gunmen kidnapped Naji Rashid al-Nuaimi on Tuesday night as he left the home of the United Arab Emirates' cultural affairs attach in Baghdad's Mansour district, said Interior Ministry police Col. Ali Rashid.

In separate TV appeals, the 28-year-old diplomat's mother and a top Iraqi politician urged the captors to release him.

The gunmen, riding in three cars, shot al-Nuaimi's armed Sudanese driver, Bedawi Ahmed Ibrahim, who later died at a Baghdad hospital, Rashid said. Al-Nuaimi hadn't taken a bodyguard with him because he lived near the attache's house, the colonel said.

"We have some leads, including descriptions of the captors and the cars they were driving," Rashid said. "We are making this a top priority since the captive is a diplomat. We believe the motive for the abduction was political, not criminal."

In an interview with The Associated Press, the diplomat's brother, Mohammed, said al-Nuaimi joined the foreign service two years ago and had helped diplomats from other countries gain the release of their abducted countrymen in Iraq, his first overseas posting.

In the emirate of Dubai, Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the kidnapping was difficult for his country, and he blamed it on widespread security problems in Iraq, including the insurgency and rising sectarian violence.

"This is painful," Sheik Abdullah told the pro-government Gulf News. "We also understand that the situation in Iraq is unstable. This makes us more concerned about Iraq and the necessity to unite efforts at the Arab and international levels to restore stability and help Iraq return to the Arab and international fold."

Al-Nuaimi's mother cried while appealing for the release of her son on Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television,

"My eldest son has a kind heart. He loves the Iraqi people. He works to serve them. Please return my son. He's got children and a family," Sheika Ali said.

The United Arab Emirates funds humanitarian projects in Iraq such as Baghdad's well-known Al-Haideri hospital.

Al-Dulaimi left a meeting of parliament to appear on Iraqi television and read a statement calling for the diplomat's release.

"The UAE Embassy is working to help the Iraqi people. I call on the kidnappers to free Naji Rashid al-Nuaimi for the sake of Iraq and its stability," said al-Dulaimi.

Al-Nuaimi's abduction was bound to push Arab diplomats in Baghdad to keep an even lower profile, said Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi security analyst with the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

"When this sort of person gets abducted, that tells you how far security has deteriorated," Alani said. "It's becoming really difficult for diplomats to operate."

In Egypt, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said the kidnapping of diplomats was only harming "Arab efforts to get Iraq out of its agony." Moussa directed the league's Baghdad office to help secure al-Nuaimi's release.

At least six other Arab embassy workers have been kidnapped since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, some by al-Qaida in Iraq to undercut support for the U.S.-backed government among Arab countries.

In July 2005, the terror group kidnapped and killed two Algerian diplomats and an Egyptian envoy. Al-Qaida said it killed the Egyptian diplomat because Cairo intended to install a full ambassador in Iraq.

Arab nations have since been hesitant to send ambassadors to Baghdad.

Senior envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain have managed to escape kidnap attempts. More than 40 diplomatic missions are currently in Iraq.