Violence has been steady around Iraq and dozens have died almost every day in the weeks leading up to the formation of Iraq's new unity government, which many hope will be capable of eventually providing Iraq with enough security to allow the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The swearing in Saturday of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new government again brought to the forefront the possibility that some foreign troops could start packing for home within months, an idea quickly shot down in Washington.
He was responding to comments made by al-Maliki and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair that Iraqi security forces would start taking control of some provinces and cities next month, a process that one unanmed British official suggested could lead to full withdrawal of foreign troops in four years.
Al-Maliki reportedly spent much of the day at his office in the heavily fortified Green Zone meeting with advisers and discussing possible candidates for the defense and interior ministries -two key posts that did not get permanent appointments when the government took office.
Parliament also did not convene as deputies asked for time to examine the nuts and bolts of running the chamber and the proceadures for setting up various committees. They decided to convene the 275-member body on Sunday. Al-Maliki has also said he would need about a week to choose men for the two security posts, and they would need to be sworn in by parliament.
Sunni Arabs have demanded the defense ministry to counterbalance the Shiite-controlled interior ministry, and al-Maliki has said the two posts are so important for the stability of Iraq that he wants to appoint men that would be acceptable to all its communities.
After it turned out that Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov included the Fonbet betting company in the list of backbone enterprises that can count on state support, everyone started talking about these bookmakers.