Iraq lawmakers approve new interior, defense ministers

Iraqi lawmakers approved Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's nominees for the remaining posts in his government Saturday, including the critical posts of defense and interior ministers amid the fight against the extremist Islamic State group.

Control over the two powerful security ministries has long been a source of tension among Iraq's feuding political factions. The U.S. and other countries have been pushing for a more representative government that can reach out to Sunnis, who felt marginalized by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sunni discontent is widely seen as having fueled the Islamic State extremist group's dramatic advances in Iraq since June.

On Saturday, lawmakers approved Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, a Shiite lawmaker with al-Abadi's State of Law political bloc, as Iraq's new minister of interior. Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni lawmaker from the besieged city of Mosul, was selected for the post of defense minister. Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish politician and Iraq's long-serving foreign minister, was named minister of finance, having previously been voted in as deputy prime minister.

Lawmakers approved most of al-Abadi's Cabinet on Sept. 8 and officially voted him in as prime minister, bringing a formal end to al-Maliki's eight-year rule, but al-Abadi requested a delay in naming defense and interior ministers because lawmakers had not agreed on his proposed candidates.

On Sept. 16, al-Abadi put forward Sunni lawmaker Jaber al-Jabberi as his candidate for defense minister and Shiite lawmaker Riyad Ghareeb as his pick for interior minister, but both were rejected by parliament.

Al-Maliki held both the defense and interior minister posts himself after his re-election in 2010 because lawmakers could not reach an agreement on them. That fueled concerns that he was monopolizing power.

Other posts named Saturday included the role of minister of tourism, given to Shiite lawmaker Adel Fahd al-Shirshab, and the head of the women's ministry was named as Kurdish lawmaker Bayan Nouri.