Iraq to appoint civilian as defense minister

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

BAGHDAD For the first time, Iraq has agreed to select a civilian as the nation's defense minister.

The decision by the Iraqi Governing Council would mark the first time Iraq would appoint a civilian to the post of defense minister. In all of the regimes since Iraq's independence in 1921, the defense minister has been a military general.

The decision, taken in cooperation with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, was part of a plan to reestablish the Defense Ministry in Iraq. The United States banned the ministry when it captured Iraq and destroyed the regime of Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

Officials said the United States has drafted a proposal for the restoration of Iraq's Defense Ministry. One of the terms in the proposal was that the ministry comes under the control of the Iraqi civilian government rather than the military. Another term was that the ministry would oversee the military and weapons procurement.

So far, officials said, several candidates were being considered for the post. They were not identified but officials said they were not linked to the former regime of Saddam Hussein or his military.

The appointment of Iraq's first civilian defense minister was expected to take place by July 2004 and could be coordinated with the effort to draft a constitution for the post-Saddam era.

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