Al-Maliki to keep position in reshuffle, al-Talabani says

Other News Materials 9 February 2008 17:34 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani said Saturday that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would retain his position in a cabinet reshuffle.

"The coming cabinet reshuffle will not affect the prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. There is a consensus to reduce ministerial positions to half," al-Talabani confirmed to reporters after meeting the top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani in Najaf.

He rejected reports that al-Maliki would be replaced by Vice- President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, saying: "These reports are false and invalid." Abdul-Mahdi supported al-Maliki's bid to remain prime minister, he added.

Al-Talabani also praised the top Shiite clerics in Iraq, including al-Sistani saying it was "a blessing for Iraq,"

He said: "We seek to work with the religious clergy to achieve interests of the Iraqi people, but they (the clerics) do not interfere in internal details of the country."

Al-Talabani said his duties and efforts were equally committed to all the ethnic and religious groups in Iraq.

"We in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan care for all interests of Sunnis as well as Shiites. I serve all regardless of ethnicity, nationalism or religion," he said.

Al-Talabani arrived early Saturday in Najaf on a surprise visit to meet the Shiite top cleric al-Sistani, reports said.

Iraqi politicians usually confer with the Shiite cleric to seek his support and views on major issues in the country.

The governor of Najaf greeted al-Talabani upon his arrival, VOI reported.