Baghdad, Iraq After five months of often bitter wrangling over Cabinet posts, Iraq's unity government took office Saturday and vowed to fight the insurgency, restore stability and set the stage for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops.
The new permanent government resulting from December's elections in which 12 million Iraqis participated has been portrayed by Western officials as the best hope for changing the dynamics of violence in Iraq. But it must expand control and persuade insurgents, assassins and militias to stand down, with no guarantee of success.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the others on the 40-member Cabinet took the oath of office inside the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad repeated cautions against expectations of a quick pullout of the 132,000-strong American military contingent.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said coalition soldiers hoped to transfer their duties to Iraqis as soon as possible but that British troops would remain in Iraq for as long as they were needed.
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said Saturday that the new government would begin planning the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq next week, and Japanese media reported today that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi would discuss plans to withdraw troops from Iraq at a June summit with Bush and start the pullout as early as July.