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2006-04-29 15:05

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  Iraq has formed its first democratically elected post-war government. The move ends a three-month political impasse that has crippled efforts to end violence. The 275-seat National Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve the 31- member cabinet of Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Neil MacDonald reports for VOA from Baghdad.

  Iraq's interim National Assembly has approved the partial cabinet list, giving the country its first elected government since US-led coalition forces ousted Saddam Hussein two years ago. Prime Minster Ibrahim al-Jaafari took a 36-name list to the presidency council for approval yesterday. But last minute opposition forced further changes. Speaker Hajim al-Hassani who read the list to the elected assembly said two out of four deputy prime ministerships were left empty. The list also includes only 27 full cabinet ministers; while acting ministers cover five contentious posts. Prime minister Jaafari will handle the defense portfolio himself after his Shiite dominated majority bloc , rejected several Sunni candidates. Mr. Jaafari's two deputies, one Shiite, one Kurdish, are also the acting ministers for oil and electricity. The gaps in the cabinet show that the Iraqi main ethnic factions still could not agree on key decision making positions. But after three- month of haggling, approval of the partial list came quickly. Neil MacDonald for VOA News Baghdad.

  Here in Washington President Bush issued a statement congratulating the new government and praising the work of the outgoing Iraqi administration. Also in Iraq, a top interior ministry advisor was gunned down outside his home in Baghdad, a second ministry official was killed as he drove to work in the capital. In Tirkit, a suicide car bombing near a security checkpoint killed at least two Iraqi soldiers and wounded about 15 others including three US soldiers.

  Al-Qaida linked militants in Iraq have posted a video on an Islamist website showing what appears to be the executions of six men, the insurgents say, were working for US forces near the capital. The bound men identified as Sudanese are heard speaking Arabic on the tape, saying they were hired by a Jordanian firm to work at a US base near Baghdad. The video tape has not been authenticated

  Several thousand Togolese are fleeing the capital Lome in southern towns along the coast after two days of deadly violence that killed at least 20 people and injured more than 100. Clashes Tuesday after Faure Gnassingbe was announced the winner of Sunday's presidential election, VOA's Nico Colombant reports.

  A woman, her three children and four bags piled onto a small motorbike heading toward Benin about 40 kilometers away. The driver says he charges about three dollars for each border run and that business is good. And he has made about 50 trips since Wednesday. This young man is walking by foot with two other friends he says he decided to leave Lome after a stray bullet killed his sister during clashes between militants and the army in an opposition stronghold. He says he is not aware that there were similar clashes and rioting all along the southern ocean coast since Tuesday when electoral officials proclaimed Faure Gnassingbe as the new president. The opposition alleged there was massive fraud. And their candidate Emmanuel Akitani-Bob has also proclaimed himself president. Authorities say the opposition and their militants are acting in complete lawlessness and that they will be arrested if they continue and for now they're being forced to clean up the mess they made. Nico Colombant, VOA news, Togo.

  The African Union has agreed to more than triple the size of its peacekeeping force in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. And an AU spokesman said the body's peace and Security Council Thursday approved ,increasing the force from its present size of a little more than 2 thousand personnel to 7,700. On Wednesday , NATO said it would consider a request from the African Union to provide logistical support for the troops.

  The Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended his country's military and technology deals with Syria and Iran during his first visit to Israel, In Jerusalem today, Mr. Putin said Russia's deal to supply nuclear fuel to Iran does not threaten Israel, but the Tehran should do more to assure the world that it is not building nuclear weapons. Russian President also said Moscow's deal to sell short range anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, poses no threat to Israeli territory.

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