BAGHDAD, Iraq—Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday nominated ministers to fill six Cabinet posts that supporters of anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr vacated last month.
Al-Maliki said the new ministers were picked for their technical expertise, but members of parliament rebuffed his call for immediate confirmation. Although the Bush administration has been pressing the prime minister to pursue less sectarian politics, all six nominees, like al-Maliki, are Shiites.
The development came on another violent day that saw a suicide bomber strike a funeral procession in Fallujah, killing 25 mourners, and gunmen shoot up a minibus in Baghdad, killing 11. Two more people were killed as they tried to help, when a booby trap that the gunmen had set exploded.
The Cabinet jobs came open six weeks ago, when the al-Sadr loyalists quit to protest al-Maliki's refusal to back a timetable for U.S. troops to depart the country.
When they left April 16, the former Cabinet ministers also issued a challenge to the prime minister to install professionals rather than people chosen to placate Iraq's squabbling political factions.
Al-Maliki rejected criticism that he'd taken too long to choose new people to head the ministries of agriculture, health, transportation, civil society, provincial affairs and tourism.
"If we are late in announcing the names, it is because we reviewed many names," al-Maliki said. "We believe these are the best nominees we can get."
Some in parliament used the announcement to criticize the number of government ministries, which many Iraqis say are little more than featherbeds of patronage and havens of corruption.
U.S. officials have expressed hope that the new ministers would bring practical administrative skills to their jobs, filling the void created when members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party were booted from power.
Baha al-Aaraji, an al-Sadr follower in the parliament, said his bloc might object to two of the Cabinet nominees. He also expressed consternation that the prime minister touted their professional qualifications while choosing only Shiites.
"They were not the names that we expected," Aaraji said. "That's why we (wanted) time to evaluate their competence and technical ability, as well as their backgrounds."
A member of the secular Iraqiya bloc, led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said the all-Shiite slate was disappointing but not necessarily a sign that the nominees couldn't win approval.
"Perhaps it would have been more politic to choose a mixed group," Osama al-Nijaifi said. "But if they are independent and neutral, and wish to achieve for Iraq, that is all we ask."
The suicide bomber in Fallujah struck during the funeral of Ali Ahmed Zuwail, the nephew of tribal leader Abdel Razeq al-Issawi. Zuwail had been shot dead Wednesday. In addition to the 25 killed in the bombing, at least 30 people were wounded near the al Fardaws mosque.
Iraqi police also reported that one person was killed and another wounded in gunfire that broke out in Baghdad's Hurriyah neighborhood after a roadside bomb set an American Humvee ablaze. Further details weren't immediately available.