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Iraq Parliament Approves National Unity Government


Iraq's parliament has approved a new national unity government - even as insurgent attacks killed at least 24 people, underlining the security challenges the nation faces.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet took the oath of office Saturday, after legislators approved his appointments and his political agenda.

Mr. al-Maliki vowed to make the restoration of security his top priority, and to set a timetable for training Iraqi security forces and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq. He went ahead with the approval of his cabinet - even though no agreement was reached on filling the key defense and interior ministry portfolios.

The new iraqi government is a broad coalition of majority Shi'ites, minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds. It has taken months of negotiations to form after the December 15 elections.

In the worst violence Saturday, Iraqi officials say at least 19 people were killed and 58 others were wounded in the Shi'ite district of Sadr City in the capital, Baghdad.

Elsewhere, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a police station in the town of Qaim, near the border with Syria, killing five policemen and wounding 10 others.

Mr. al-Maliki told parliament he will temporarily run the Interior Ministry and he named Sunni Arab Deputy Prime Minister-designate Salam al-Zaubai as a temporary defense minister. Outgoing Minister of Planning Barham Saleh, a Kurd, was named acting minister of national security affairs.

Several Sunni legislators walked out of parliament after hearing that the permanent security ministers would not be chosen at this session.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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