BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari outlined plans Tuesday to build a broad-based government to tackle the country's woeful security conditions.
Jafari, newly named as his Shiite Muslim coalition's candidate to continue leading the country for the next four years, faced widespread criticism for being ineffective and controlling during his 10-month tenure as the country's top executive. He acknowledged his previous administration's weaknesses and vowed to listen to those outside his political circle in forming a government.
"Any failure or frustration about a minister will be reflected on the government as a whole," he told reporters. "Any party in the government has the right and duty to discuss candidates. No doubt, we will consider all the different parties which form the parliament."
Jafari did not spell out any major proposed changes for his administration, but said he would tighten the screws on ministers, who he suggested had been spending too much time out of the country.
"The manner of work, the pace, the centralization of the government ... all will witness a qualitative leap," he said.
Jafari, a 58-year-old physician and theologian who has been active in Islamic politics for four decades, faces daunting challenges. Skeptical political blocs already are allying against him. Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr within Jafari's coalition demand more radical measures from the government.
The coalition made Jafari its choice for prime minister by a single vote in an election Sunday.
His work will proceed amid sectarian violence that claimed at least 11 lives Tuesday in the Shiite city of Balad, where gunmen attacked a group of farmers. Several large roadside bombs rocked the capital, injuring half a dozen Iraqis.
Jafari said that improving the country's dire security circumstances would be his top priority. But many Iraqis and Western officials regard his government as part of the problem. Another faction in his coalition, followers of Shiite cleric Abdelaziz Hakim, has control of the Interior Ministry, which members of the Sunni Muslim minority have accused of spawning death squads.
The Shiite coalition, which controls 130 of the 275 seats in parliament, cannot form a government without a two-thirds majority of lawmakers and needs to build a coalition with Kurds, secular Iraqis or Sunni Arabs.
Kurdish leaders opposed Jafari and have complicated his task of assembling a government. They say Jafari didn't grant President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, more than a ceremonial role and failed to invoke a constitutional article calling for the return of dispossessed Kurds to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Jafari said he felt sympathy for the displaced Kurds but urged patience.
"We have a constitution and a law," he said. "My success, values and morals aren't based on my feelings but on how well I can apply the constitution and the law."
Now Kurds say they won't form a government without the participation of the Iraqi National List, the coalition of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite.
"We think that it's important not to exclude anybody," Talabani said Tuesday at a news conference with Hakim. "We believe the Iraqi List has struggled against Saddam Hussein and includes many individuals who struggled against the tyrant regime."
Sunni Arabs, with 55 seats in the parliament, and Allawi's followers have allied to form a bloc with the goal of preventing Shiites and Kurds from remaking Iraq as a country divided into federal regions. Their alliance could complicate efforts by Jafari to draw at least some Sunnis into a ruling coalition.