Iraq MPs approve new government, Kerry to visit region
Iraqi MPs approved a new cabinet on Sept. 8 but key security posts remained unfilled, as America's top diplomat prepared to visit the region to build a coalition against jihadists.
New premier Haidar al-Abadi had been under heavy international pressure to form an inclusive government that could present a united front against the militants, led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, who have seized much of the country's Sunni heartland.
The outgoing government faced criticism that it alienated the Sunni Arab minority, revitalising militants within the community.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking a few hours before leaving on a mission to solidify the front against ISIL, praised the "new and inclusive" Iraqi cabinet as a "major milestone."
"Now is the time for Iraq's leaders to govern their nation with the same vision and sense of purpose that helped to bring this new government together," he said.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the new government as a "positive step" but urged politicians to quickly choose new defence and interior ministers.
Meanwhile, the new U.N. human rights chief Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said ISIL atrocities promised only a "house of blood" for those living under their rule, while the head of Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar religious institution also condemned the group.
The crucial parliament session opened to chaotic scenes, with speaker Salim al-Juburi struggling to maintain order and many MPs absent.
Eventually, 289 out of 328 lawmakers showed up and helped approve three deputy prime ministers and 21 ministers, but key posts - including the interior and defence posts - remain unfilled.