Iraq's government meets as Baghdad rocked by bombs

Roadside bombs and a drive-by shooting killed four Iraqis and wounded 24 in Baghdad today as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new national unity government held its first meeting to discuss issues such as improving Iraq's security.

Roadside bombs and a drive-by shooting killed four Iraqis and wounded 24 in Baghdad today as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new national unity government held its first meeting to discuss issues such as improving Iraq's security.

The attacks all occurred in the capital as Iraqis headed back to work and school.

In the deadliest attack, one of two roadside bombs exploded in a crowded fruit market in New Baghdad, a mixed Shiite, Sunni Arab and Christian area in an eastern part of the capital, said police Lt. Ali Abbas.

Police found the first bomb and detonated it after trying to evacuate the market, said Abbas. But a second hidden bomb exploded a moment later, killing three civilians and wounding 23, Abbas said.

Later four gunmen in a speeding car shot and killed Ali Abdul-Hussein al-Kinani, 57, who was standing outside his food store in the mostly Shiite neighbourhood of Ubaidi, said police Maj Mahir Hamad Moussa.

In southwestern Baghdad, the roadside bomb missed its target -- a police patrol -- but wounded five civilians in the mostly Sunni Arab neighbourhood of Sadiyah, said police Capt Jamil Hussein.

On Saturday, parliament inaugurated al-Maliki and his new government, which hopes to improve the Iraq's military and police forces, persuade the insurgents to lay down its weapons and disband militias, reduce sectarian violence and restore stability to Iraq. If that can be done, and there is no certainty that it can, it would set the stage for the eventual withdrawal of tens of thousands of US and other foreign troops.

But political in-fighting left three important posts in the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish Cabinet temporarily filled -- the very ones responsible for managing Iraq's army, police forces and national security.

Al-Maliki's said he is determined to find independent, non sectarian officials to fill those three portfolios, and his new Cabinet was expected to discuss that during its first meeting today.

The closed meeting began about midday in the Prime Ministry building in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, which serves as a command centre for US forces in Iraq.

Al-Maliki's national unity government took office Saturday, five months after the election of Iraq's parliament and following prolonged bitter wrangling over the Cabinet posts.

The new permanent government has been portrayed by Western officials as the best hope for changing the dynamics of violence in Iraq.

Still, US President George W. Bush, who is facing rising criticism at home over Iraq, welcomed the new Cabinet and promised continued US help.

"The US and freedom-loving nations around the world will stand with Iraq as it takes its place among the world's democracies and as an ally in the war on terror," Bush said.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox