But the Sunni selected as human rights minister turned down the job, saying he cannot accept a position awarded on sectarian criteria.

Less than half of the National Assembly, 112 of the 155 legislators present, approved Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's six nominations on Sunday, including Shia Arab Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum as oil minister and Sunni military man Saadoun al-Duleimi as defence minister.

The other four designated ministers were Hashim Abdul-Rahman al-Shibli, a Sunni, as human rights minister; Muhsin Shlash, a Shia, as electricity minister; Osama al-Nujafi, a Sunni, as industry minister; and Abid Mutlak al-Juburi, a Sunni, as a deputy prime minister.

President Jalal Talabani approved
the cabinet appointments

However, al-Shibli told a news briefing that he could not accept his appointment.

"Concentrating on sectarian identities leads to divisions in the society and state, and for that reason I respectfully decline the post," al-Shibli said.

Reasons for refusal

Speaking to Aljazeera from Baghdad, al-Shibli explained that there were two reasons for refusing to accept the post.

"Firstly, I was surprised being assigned to assume the post of Human Rights Minister since I was not asked before the announcment

"But secondly, I have been appointed to represent the Sunni Arabs - a matter that contradicts my thoughts, beliefs and principles." 

The new government, most of which was sworn in last week, includes 17 Shia ministers, eight Kurds, six Sunnis and a Christian.

Three deputy premiers have also been named, one each for the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds.

A fourth deputy premiership remains vacant; al-Jaafari has said he hopes to appoint a woman to the position.

"All sectors of Iraq"

Addressing the media after the vote, al-Jaafari said the long wait for a new government was not in vain.

"The need to represent all sectors of Iraq was the reason for the delay," he said.

"Dialogue and assessments were given good time so that the ministers would be supported by the majority of the National Assembly," he added.

President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents signed off on the names before they were submitted to the 270-member National Assembly for a vote.