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Iraq's Abadi unveils new cabinet list as Sadr ends protests

Muqtada al-Sadr halts Green Zone sit-in after PM promises reforms and names cabinet based on 'professionalism, competence and integrity'
Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr protest outside Baghdad's Green Zone on Thursday (AFP)

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday nominated a new cabinet and pledged to make political reforms to reduce corruption in response to sit-in protests in Baghdad led by influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr on Thursday told supporters to end their two-week protest at the entrances to the fortified Green Zone, where Iraq's government institutions are located. 

In a speech to parliament, Abadi stressed his commitment to the Iraqi constitution but also to reforms he said were key to helping Iraq move forward. 

The defence and interior ministries are the only ones not to have been changed, with Abadi saying that a change in leadership now could further destabilise the security situation.

Most of the names are not seen to be loyal to Iraq's existing political blocs that have long dominated politics. 

All political parties have been included, but Abadi has faced an uphill battle with parliament, with many political blocs initially against reform and fearful that it would see their influence curtailed. 

"They were chosen on the basis of professionalism, competence, integrity and leadership ability," Abadi said of the proposed candidates.

Parliament then voted on carrying out "complete reform" of government positions including ministers, deputies and security commanders.

The ministerial changes are to be carried out in 10 days, parliamentary speaker Salim al-Juburi said.

But changing ministers and other senior officials is only likely to be the beginning of the process, as ministries are packed with lower-level employees appointed on the basis of party and sectarian affiliation.

Sadr had given Abadi an ultimatum, telling him he had to present a new list by Thursday or face widespread protests inside the Green Zone. 

"I would like to thank Sadr because he preserved social cohesion in the country," Abadi said in his speech.

Suadad al-Salhy, an Iraqi journalist, told Middle East Eye that the re-shuffle could be the sign of substantial change within the government.

"This is big as it will tighten the grip on the financial and administration corruption rampant in the Iraqi governmental departments since 2003 as the political sharing system has been providing a political cover to keep the corrupted ministers and senior officials away from any accountability," she said.

Key ministerial nominations:

Ali Alawi - Minister of Finance

Nzar Salim - Minister of Oil

Sharif Ali bn Ali - Minister of Foreign Affairs

Ali Jabouri - Minister of Education

Ali Mubarak - Minister of Health

Hassan Janabi - Minister of Oil and Water Resources

Aqil Yousif - Minister of Youth and Culture

Hoshiyar Amin - Minister of Municipality and Reconstruction

Yousif Assadi - Minister of Transportation

Mohammed Nasrollah - Minister of Justice

Ala Dashir - Minister of Electricity

Wafa Mahdawi - Minister of Immigration and Displacement

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