Key profiles

Brief profiles of prominent figures in Iraq's new government:

    Iraq's parliament approved the new cabinet on Saturday

    Jalal Talabani, president: A lawyer turned guerrilla leader against Saddam, he founded the socialist PUK after breaking with the KDP, long-time standard bearer of Kurdish independence. The two parties fought in the 1990s after securing autonomy with US help. Born in 1933, Talabani is Iraq's first Kurdish head of state and says he is determined to hold the country together.
    Adel Abdul Mahdi, vice-president: Senior member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), the largest Shia bloc, and former finance minister. French-trained economist who was a Marxist in his youth, well-liked in Washington, which views him as more secularly inclined than fellow Islamists. He was long Sciri's choice for prime minister. His brother was assassinated last year in Baghdad and he has survived attempts on his life.

    Talabani is Iraq's first Kurdish
    head of state

    Tareq al-Hashemi, vice-president: A Sunni with successful business interests, he heads the Iraqi Islamist Party, the largest Sunni Arab party and a major force in the Accordance Front. US officials see his involvement in politics, after a Sunni boycott, as a sign that Saddam's disaffected and once-dominant minority can be tempted away from open rebellion.

    Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister: Al-Maliki is a straight-talking Shia Islamist from Dawa, oldest of the big parties in the dominant United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) bloc. He spent years in exile in Syria after being sentenced to death by Saddam's courts. He says he is ready to reach out to Sunni rebels and rein in Shia militias. A graduate in Arabic letters, he was born in 1950.

    Barham Salih, deputy prime minister: Formerly prime minister of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan and a close ally of President Talabani, Salih has special responsibility for the economy and its reconstruction. He is well-respected in Washington where he long represented the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
    Salam al-Zobaie, deputy prime minister: A relatively unknown figure from the Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab grouping. He is from a well-known tribe. His brief includes security.

    Hussain al-Shahristani, oil minister: A nuclear scientist jailed and tortured after refusing to design an atom bomb for Saddam, Shahristani is a newcomer to the oil industry and some insiders question his expertise. A Shia close to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading cleric, he was once seen as a potential prime minister. He was a deputy parliamentary speaker in the old government.

    Al-Maliki (C) says he wants to
    reach out to minority Sunnis

    Bayan Jabor, finance minister: Jabor is from Sciri, the strongest Alliance component. His year as interior minister has been marred by accusations of police death squads and recruitment into the police from Sciri's armed wing, the Badr movement. An engineer by training, he was a Sciri exiled representative in Syria.
    Hoshiyar Zebari, foreign minister: An increasingly recognisable figure on the world stage, the Kurd remains foreign minister, a post he has held since 2003. Born in the Kurdish north in 1953 and with a masters in sociology earned in Britain, his fluent English and easy manner brought him notice as a spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) during the guerrilla campaigns in the mountains during Saddam's time.

    Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, parliament speaker: A Sunni Islamist, al-Mashhadani is a colourful figure who served in Saddam's army but was sentenced to death for joining outlawed Islamist groups. Shia accuse him of being too sectarian and some are considering trying to replace him. His bodyguard narrowly survived an assassination attempt last week.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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