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Violence Continues as Iraqis Await Appointment of Key Ministers

Gunmen dressed in Iraqi police uniforms kidnapped at least 50 people Monday at bus stations in Baghdad a day after 21 Shiite students were killed. The New York Times' Baghdad bureau chief discusses the kidnappings and the deadlock over ministerial nominations.

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  • RAY SUAREZ, NewsHour Correspondent:

    John Burns, welcome.

    Why hasn't Prime Minister Maliki been able to seat the final and very important posts in his cabinet?

    JOHN BURNS, Baghdad Bureau Chief, "The New York Times": Well, it's really, I think, a problem that's embedded in the nature of the government itself.

    Under American prodding, they've constructed a national unity government, which, as you know, involves all the principal political factions — the Sunni Arabs, the Shiites and the Kurds — in order to try and construct a government that will draw on broad national support and draw down the insurgency.

    The countervailing fact is, of course, that that gives overlapping veto to each side. And after I don't know how many rounds now of negotiations, but running back many weeks, what happened is that every time that the horse has come to the fence, it hasn't jumped.

    The most recent occasion being on Sunday when the parliament was called into session to approve nominees by the prime minister. But the prime minister had to withdraw his nominees at the last moment, because the Sunni Arabs had a nominee for minister of defense, who the Shiites vetoed, because of what they alleged was a Baathist past.

    And then bizarrely, the Shiite nominee for minister of the interior — and he, like the Sunni nominee for minister of defense is a former Saddam general — could not win universal approval from within the ruling Shiite bloc, and was vetoed, in effect, within his own political bloc.

    So, it looks like they're back to the beginning again. And every day that passes it becomes a more serious problem, because this is the heart of the matter. Can they get control — or begin to get control — over the deteriorating security situation?

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Well, defense and the interior means the army and the national police force.

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