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Interim Iraqi government named

Bush praises appointments; U.S.-backed council disbands

Iraq's new interim president, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, speaks at a ceremony Tuesday in Baghdad.
The people selected to Iraq's new interim government.

A car bombing coincides with the naming of the interim Iraqi president.

President Bush welcomes Iraq's new interim government.
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Lakhdar Brahimi

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi officials introduced a new interim government Tuesday nearly four weeks before sovereignty is scheduled to be transferred to the country.

An interim president, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, and the caretaker body's Cabinet and top officials were introduced at an upbeat but businesslike ceremony.

In Washington, President Bush praised the new interim government, saying it possesses "the talent, the commitment and the resolve" for the challenges ahead, "the foremost task" being the preparation for a national election next year.

"A free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East is going to be a game changer," Bush said.

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council dissolved itself Tuesday to make way for the new body. The caretaker government will be in charge after the June 30 political handover until national elections are held in January.

The governing council's role was advisory to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which will retain sovereignty until the end of June and then disband.

"It is my great joy to meet you today on this historical day where Iraq is witnessing the forming and the announcement of this transitional government and the taking on of its responsibilities," Allawi said.

Allawi noted the security challenges, saying the country doesn't want to be under occupation but needs the partnership of the coalition and its neighbors to take on terror threats. At the same time, it will do its utmost to build its armed forces, he said.

Allawi said priorities will be increasing salaries of the military and all Iraqi families and dealing with unemployment. He also mentioned the need for infrastructure improvements in electricity, water and sewage.

Allawi praised the United States for its help.

Bush said the interim government brings the country "one step closer to realizing the dream of millions of Iraqis -- a fully sovereign nation with a representative government."

He said the new leadership includes "a broad cross section of Iraqis," including five regional officials and six women.

"A free Iraq will be a decisive blow to terrorism," said Bush, who nevertheless predicted more violence from insurgents. "The killers know that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. The return of tyranny to Iraq would embolden the terrorists."

But "they are not going to shake our will," he said.

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who announced the choice of al-Yawar as president on Tuesday, said Iraq "has suffered a lot" from wars, "unjust sanctions" and Saddam Hussein's regime.

The new government, he said, "is the first step on this road, which will no doubt be long and difficult, but I believe that those who were chosen to perform this mission will be qualified and effective and capable."

While noting the importance of security, Brahimi said that stability "won't be achieved by weapons alone."

"The country is in critical need for real political action" and "is in need of a real national unity," he said.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "I think this is a new beginning. It is not an end. There's lots of hard work ahead."

He congratulated Brahimi for his work in helping to form the caretaker government and getting the electoral process going.

"It's been difficult," Annan said. "He's had to make compromises to move the process ahead. It was never going to be easy ... but now that the new government is installed, we all need to look forward."

In his remarks at the Baghdad ceremony, al-Yawar stressed the importance of unifying the ethnically and religiously diverse country, populated by Sunni and Shiite Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrian Christians.

He said a goal is to work for a civilized country that "would be one nation without murderers, without criminals, without bad ambitions."

Al-Yawar had been head of the governing council, which rotated its presidency monthly. Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi initially was offered the presidency in the interim government but said he declined to take it for personal reasons.

Other key members of the interim government are Deputy Presidents Ibrahim Jafari al-Eshaiker, a Shiite Muslim, and Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd.

The Cabinet also will include:

  • Hoshyar Zebari, who stays on as foreign minister;
  • Falah Hassan al-Naqib, a provincial official from Samarra, as interior minister;
  • Hazem Shalan al-Khuzaei, a powerful sheik and a provincial official from Diwaniyah, as defense minister;
  • Adil Abdel-Mahdi, a longtime economist and top official in the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution for Iraq, as finance minister;
  • Thamir Ghadbhan, a longtime Iraqi oil ministry official, as oil minister. (Full list of interim government members)

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