Iraq's new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who was sworn in with 36 of his ministry appointments Saturday, said Iraqi forces could assume control of much of the country by year's end. Three Iraq analysts access the new government and the challenges ahead.
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Iraq's new government got a rousing show of support today from the two foreign leaders whose armies toppled Saddam Hussein. British Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to Baghdad to congratulate new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for finally putting together a government.
TONY BLAIR, Prime Minister of Britain: It's been three years of struggle to try to get to this point, and it has been longer and harder than any of us would have wanted it to be. But this is a new beginning, and we want to see what you want to see, which is Iraq and the Iraqi people able to take charge of their own destiny.
President Bush called the new government a "watershed event" during a speech in Chicago, and he called on the new Iraqi leadership to embrace a "common vision."
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: This common vision is critical to the new government's success. Although Iraq's new leaders come from many different ethnic and religious communities, they made clear they will govern as Iraqis.
They know that the strategy of the terrorists and the insurgents is to divide Iraq along sectarian lines. Iraq's new leaders know they have a great deal of work ahead to broaden the base of their government and unite the people.
They also understand that representing all Iraqis, and not just narrow sectarian interests, they'll be able to make a decisive break with the past and make a future of progress and opportunity for all of their people a reality.
The Iraqi parliament approved the new cabinet on Saturday after more than five months of post-election wrangling.
Prime Minister Maliki presented cabinet of 37 members. A majority are Shiite, with eight Sunnis, eight Kurds, and one Christian. Four ministers are women.
But the televised ceremony was marked by protests and a walkout by some Sunni parliamentarians unhappy over how posts were allocated. More ominously, Maliki was unable to choose ministers for three key agencies: national security, defense — which oversees the Iraqi army — and interior, which controls the police.
On Sunday, after the first cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Maliki publicly vowed to end the violence that is consuming his country.
NOURI AL-MALIKI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through translator):
We are aware of the security challenge, its dimensions and effects, so we believe that facing this challenge cannot be achieved through the use of force only, despite the fact that we are going to use the maximum force in confronting the terrorists and the killers who are shedding blood. But in addition to this military and security measure, we also need national reconciliation measures.
But the violence across Iraq continued unabated over the weekend. More than three dozen people were killed in car bombings and shootings.