Iraqi premier says he'll cut his salary by half

FILE - In this March 26, 2010 file photo, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki speaks to the press in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's prime minister says he will return half of his annual salary to the government's treasury in a symbolic effort to balance the standard of living between the nation's rich and poor. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

BAGHDAD, Feb 5 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)  – Iraq’s prime minister said Friday he’ll return half of his annual salary to the public treasury in a symbolic gesture that appeared calculated to insulate himself from the anti-government unrest spreading across the Middle East.

It was a stunning statement for Nouri al-Maliki, who has resisted disclosing his pay in the five years he has led Iraq. He described it as an effort to narrow the gap between the nation’s rich and poor.

Coming in the wake of popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, however, al-Maliki also seemed to be shielding himself from public bitterness over Iraq’s sagging economy and electricity shortages.

Al-Maliki narrowly secured a second term in office after months of political negotiations last year. He is believed to earn at least $360,000 annually.

“Fifty percent of my monthly salary will be reduced, starting from the current month, as a contribution from me to reduce the difference in the salaries of the state officials,” al-Maliki said in a statement Friday. “That will help limit the differences in the social living standards for different classes of the society.”

Al-Maliki also noted that his pay cut comes as Iraq’s parliament considers what the Finance Ministry projects will be a $90.5 billion spending plan for this year.

Hours earlier, Sunni and Shiite clerics used Friday sermons to warn government leaders against letting poverty, oppression and corruption become the norm — or face the consequences of the unrest that has gripped parts of the Arab world in recent weeks.

“All governments — even those which embraced democracy — have to study the essential reasons that have lead to this overwhelming popular anger against the political regimes in those countries,” said Shiite Sheik Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie, a top representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

“They have to learn the lessons from what is happening,” al-Karbalaie said.

Emboldened Iraqis staged several small protests over what they called corruption in the government’s security forces, rampant unemployment and scant electricity and water in homes.

U.S. government estimates indicate that as many as 30 percent of Iraqis are unemployed, and households nationwide have as little as three hours of electricity or running water daily because of the country’s antiquated and overloaded power grid.

Wisam Sabir, a 45-year-old activist for the al-Noor government watchdog group, said Iraq’s problems are far worse than those of some of its Arab neighbors.

“We watched the uprising in Tunisia, but the services there are better than here,” she said at a small demonstration outside the a coffee shop in central Baghdad’s Mutanabi book market.

“Where is the democracy and freedom they promised us?” she said. “This is another dictatorship.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Announces Cabinet Choices

 

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, left, arrives to attend the Iraqi parliament session in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010

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December 20, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, left, arrives to attend the Iraqi parliament session in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki submitted a list of his new Cabinet members late Monday, putting Iraqis one step closer to a new government after a 9-month political stalemate.

Iraq’s Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi announced he had received a list of 42 ministers and top government posts.  He said parliament will vote on the new ministers on Tuesday.

Mr. Maliki submitted 13 “acting ministers” to fill his list until permanent choices were agreed upon.  Temporary members will fill Iraq’s top three security posts.

Late last month, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asked Mr. Maliki to form a new government as part of a deal to end the political stalemate after inconclusive elections.  Mr. Talabani gave the prime minister 30 days to choose a new Cabinet.

The Cabinet announcement comes a day after former prime minister Ayad Allawi said he will join Mr. Maliki’s coalition government.

Mr. Talabani’s request followed a power-sharing agreement among Iraq’s Shi’ite, Kurdish and Sunni political leaders that put Mr. Maliki, a Shi’ite, on track for a second term as prime minister.

Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition won two more seats than Mr. Maliki’s State of Law coalition in the March 7 elections, but neither won enough for a parliamentary majority.

Mr. Allawi said Sunday he has agreed to accept a job in the government as head of a newly created strategic policy council that will limit Mr. Maliki’s authority on various issues.  But he warned that his support could end if there is any change to the current power-sharing deal. (*)

Iraq's Iyad Allawi says will join Maliki government

Iyad Allawi, former prime minister and head of the secular Iraqiya coalition, speaks during a joint news conference with Speaker of Parliament Ayad al-Samarai (not in picture), in Baghdad October 7, 2010. (Photo :Reuters)

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December 19, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) — Former prime minister Iyad Allawi, whose cross-sectarian coalition won the most seats in Iraq’s March election, said Sunday he will join Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government.

Allawi’s decision, after weeks of wavering, cleared another potential hurdle in long and contentious negotiations between Iraq’s Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs to form a new government after an inconclusive election.

Maliki is to unveil his cabinet in parliament Monday.

The participation of Allawi and Iraqiya could help ease concern about renewed bloodshed as Iraq emerges from years of war and U.S. troops withdraw completely by the end of 2011.

Allawi, a secular Shi’ite, had wanted to unseat Shi’ite premier Maliki after his Iraqiya bloc won 91 seats in the new parliament with strong backing from Iraq’s minority Sunnis. He had warned that any attempt to marginalize his coalition could reinvigorate a weakened but still lethal insurgency.

Washington and Iraq’s Sunni Arab neighbors were anxious to ensure that Allawi’s bloc was represented in the government.

Allawi said he would accept a job as head of a national strategic policy council that was offered in a power-sharing deal involving Maliki and Kurdish president Masoud Barzani on November 10.

“We will accept the leadership of this council based on the agreements that have occurred and have been signed between me and Mr Barzani and Mr Maliki,” Allawi told a news conference. “So this is concluded. If there is any change to the agreements on power, then there will be a different story all together.”

Allawi had been indecisive about joining the government after the November 10 accord between the political factions that put Maliki on course for a second term as premier. The accord also returned Kurd Jalal Talabani to the presidency and gave Sunni Osama al-Nujaifi the speaker’s post in parliament.  (*)

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