A democratically elected government was sworn into office Tuesday in Iraq. The new prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was sworn in first. He placed his hand on a Koran and promised to protect the independence of Iraq. The ceremony took place at a building inside the Green Zone. That area of Baghdad is heavily guarded by American troops.
Violence has increased since Mister Jaafari announced his government on April twenty-eighth. Among the attacks Friday, a bomber set off a car full of explosives next to a small police bus in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.
There was also a deadly bombing at a market in the town of Suwayrah, south of Baghdad. And police recovered at least twelve bodies that were buried at a waste center at the northeastern edge of the capital.
Also Friday, Al-Jazeera television said kidnappers are demanding that Australia begin to remove its troops from Iraq within seventy-two hours. The Arab television station showed an Australian hostage being held at gunpoint. Al-Jazeera also reported the kidnapping of six Jordanian workers in Iraq.
The new Iraqi cabinet has thirty-seven members. Those sworn-in Tuesday included sixteen Shiite Arabs and nine Kurds. They also included four Sunnis and one Christian. Mister Jaafari still had seven members to name, including leaders for the oil and defense ministries.
The prime minister, a Shiite, said he wanted to fill the defense position with a Sunni Arab in an effort to reach out to that minority group. Sunni Muslims ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein. They boycotted the national elections in January. And they are believed to be leading the resistance movement.
Mister Jafaari blamed the delay in naming the cabinet on disputes among the Sunnis. The top Sunni member in the cabinet, Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer, was among lawmakers who did not attend the Tuesday ceremony.
The new government will lead Iraq while the temporary national assembly writes a constitution. Lawmakers are supposed to finish by the middle of August, and then put the proposed document to a national vote. Approval of the constitution would lead the way to new elections in December.
In other political news this week in the Middle East, women in Kuwait lost a chance to vote in elections on June second. Conservatives in parliament delayed consideration of a proposed election law. The measure would have permitted women to vote in elections for the Kuwaiti municipal council.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are the only Arab countries that bar women from elections. Kuwaiti activists say they hope women will be able to vote in elections in two thousand nine.
IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Jill Moss. I’m Steve Ember.