Iraqi parliament approves three new ministers, but remains deadlocked over key posts
New Higher Education Minister Qusay al-Suheil, 53, is a member of former premier Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc.
Planning Minister Nuri al-Dulaimi, 51, is an Iraqi Islamic Party member while Minister of Culture Abdulamir Al-Hamdani, a 51-year-old archaeologist, is backed by pro-Iran force Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
The brief session brings to 17 the number of filled posts in Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi's 22-ministry cabinet. The other 14 were approved by parliament in late October.
After the speedy vote, legislators adjourned their session to Thursday afternoon.
The five empty posts include the powerful ministers of defence and interior, seen as the primary stumbling blocks to a full cabinet.
Abdel Mahdi has proposed Faysal al-Jarba and Faleh al-Fayyadh as ministers of defence and interior respectively, both backed by parties close to Iran.
But rival Sunni political parties are deeply divided over Jarba.
Saeroon, the coalition headed by populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the largest bloc in parliament, is fiercely opposed to Fayyadh's nomination.
Last week, he told journalists the ongoing dispute over the unfilled ministries was "not his decision."
"We were free to choose eight or nine ministers, and the rest are the results of political agreements," he said.
"When it comes to the interior and defence, these were the choices of the political blocs, not of the premier."
As government formation drags on, observers have wondered whether Abdel Mahdi could step down, further destabilising a country struggling to rebuild after three years of fighting against the Islamic State group.
Meanwhile, prominent Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani met with Iraq's new prime minister last month, in a further sign of improving ties between Baghdad and Erbil.
Barzani's visit was seen as another sign of an improvement in relations between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan that deteriorated sharply after the autonomous region held an independence referendum last year.
Barzani previously served as the Iraqi Kurds' president and now heads the prominent Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which emerged victorious in regional parliamentary elections in September.
Last year's independence vote saw more than 92 percent of Kurds back secession, but the federal government rejected the poll as "illegal," imposed economic penalties and seized the disputed Kirkuk oil fields, halting exports.
But since Abdel Mahdi was appointed premier in October, relations appear to have improved between Baghdad and Kurdish leaders in the regional capital Erbil.
Barzani's favoured candidate Fuad Hussein was appointed Iraq's minister of finance later that month, and the two sides announced a deal last month to resume Kirkuk oil exports.
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