Kurdish nominee for oil minister withdraws candidacy
The nominee for the post of oil minister in Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's proposed cabinet, Nizar Saleem Numan withdrew his candidacy on Friday because the main Kurdish groups had not formally put him forward.
"Because there is no political agreement over the form of the future government, I withdraw my candidacy for the ministry of oil position," he told a news conference in Dohuk.
Numan, a 65-year-old petroleum geologist, is part of the line up of technocrats presented on Thursday by Abadi who wants the new government to focus on fighting rampant graft in the OPEC nation. Parliament must vote on the reshuffle in the next 10 days.
Though Numan did not elaborate on his decision to pull out, outgoing finance minister Hoshiyar Zebari, who is also a Kurd, said Abadi's lineup lacked the formal approval of the Kurdish groups.
"The Kurdish alliance has one position: we are for the respect of the Constitution and we won't allow the Kurds' representatives be imposed on us," Zebari told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"Any future representation of the Kurds has to be just and fair," added Zebari, who belongs to the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the largest group in the Kurdish alliance coalition.
Numan is the dean of the college of planning at the University of Duhok in the Kurdish region and spent three decades at the University of Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, now under control of Islamic State militants.
Abadi presented his choices to the parliament, where they could meet resistance from politicians who prefer the system of political patronage that has helped many of them acquire power and wealth.
"They were chosen on the basis of professionalism, competence, integrity, and leadership ability," Abadi said of the proposed candidates, one of whom is a descendant of Iraq's deposed king.
In announcing the sweeping change, Abadi said he is reducing the number of cabinet ministers to 16 from 21. The only two ministers who were not replaced were the defense and interior ministers, "given the hard situation" they face in waging a new offensive against the Islamic State militant group to recapture the northern city of Mosul, he said.
The announcement prompted influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to end a two-week sit-in by his followers in Baghdad's Green Zone, where they had been demanding the replacement of political cronies in the cabinet with technocrats.
Sadr praised Abadi's "brave step" and urged lawmakers to quickly vote on the new lineup. He warned legislators that they would face street protests if they attempt to block the government overhaul.
Abadi's move delivers on his promises to hire people and enact sweeping measures to fight cor- ruption that is pervasive in Iraq's government. Iraq ranks among the lowest countries worldwide in measures of government integrity.
"Most of [the nominees] have academic credentials, but they all have experience of working in a senior executive position, managing or administrating," Sajad Jiyad, an Iraqi political analyst said.