Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has named his current culture minister as interim defence minister, an aide said Tuesday, relinquishing the extra job he has held since December.
“The prime minister appointed Saadun al-Dulaimi as interim minister of defence,” the premier’s media advisor, Ali Mussawi, told AFP.
Dulaimi, a Sunni Muslim member of the Iraqi Unity Alliance, which is allied with former premier Iyad Allawi’s Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc. It was unclear if he would keep that post, nor who would handle the culture portfolio.
“This step comes after two weeks since the political parties asked Iraqiya to name a minister of defence,” Mussawi said. “During this period, Iraqiya did not name its candidate. That is why the prime minister appointed Dulaimi.”
Politicians agreed to appoint interim defence and interior ministers within two weeks this month, on the same day they authorised negotiations with the United States on a military training mission extending past December 31, when US forces are required to leave Iraq under a 2008 security accord.
Maliki had held both the defence and interior posts since December, when parliament approved his partial cabinet, after nine months of political deadlock that followed elections in March.
The premier remains interim interior minister.
Violence in Iraq has declined from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common — making the defence and security posts key positions.
Attacks in more than a dozen cities killed 74 people nationwide on Monday, Iraq’s bloodiest day in more than a year. The toll included 40 in twin blasts blamed on Al-Qaeda in the southern city of Kut.
A total of 259 Iraqis were killed in attacks in July, the second-highest figure for 2011.