In a vote in parliament on Sunday, 112 of the 155 legislators present approved al-Jaafari's six nominations, including Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, a Shia, as the new oil minister and Saadoun al-Duleimi, a Sunni, as the defence minister.

As required, President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents had approved al-Jaafari's nominations before the parliamentary vote.

In a sign of how difficult it was to reconcile differences among Iraq's Shia, Kurds and Sunni Arabs during more than three months of debate over the cabinet vacancies, 120 of the legislators in the National Assembly were absent when parliament voted on Sunday.

Sunnis are thought to make up the backbone of Iraq's deadly insurgency, and they ruled for decades under Saddam Hussein, whose government and Baath Party repressed Shia and Kurds.

President Jalal Talabani approved
the cabinet appointments

The other four newly filled cabinet posts were Hashim Abdul-Rahman al-Shibli, a Sunni, as human rights minister; Muhsin Shlash, a Shia, as electricity minister; Usama al-Najafi, a Sunni, as industry minister; and Abid Mutlaq al-Juburi, a Sunni, as a deputy prime minister.

One final portfolio in the government's 37-member cabinet remained vacant, the fourth deputy prime ministership.

"We're done with the government. The five cabinet ministers have been named as well as the deputy prime minister," al-Jaafari said at a news conference after parliament's vote. "I would like to have a woman as my fourth deputy prime minister."

Political wrangling

Al-Jaafari had promised to form a government that includes all of Iraq's major ethnic and religious groups after his Shia-dominated alliance won a majority of seats in landmark parliamentary elections on 30 January. But bickering over cabinet positions dragged on for months, and Shia leaders had rejected numerous cabinet candidates submitted by Sunni negotiators because of ties to Saddam's government.

Bahr al-Uloum, 51, the new oil minister, held the same post during the period of the US-appointed Governing Council.

He is a member of the powerful Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance and earned his undergraduate degree in oil engineering from Baghdad University in 1976 before receiving his master's degree and a PhD in petroleum engineering from the University of New Mexico.

Al-Duleimi, the new defence minister, was a lieutenant colonel of Saddam's powerful General Security Organization. He left Iraq in 1984 and lived in exile in Saudi Arabia until the fall of Saddam's government in April 2003.