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US senators suggest Maliki government be replaced

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 20, 2007
Two key US senators suggested Monday that Iraq's parliament replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government if it fails in a "last chance" political reconciliation bid.

Senators Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and John Warner, the ranking Republican, said after a two-day visit to Iraq that they were not optimistic about the prospects for compromise.

"We believe that the recent high-level meetings among Iraqi political leaders could be the last chance for this government to solve the Iraqi political crisis," they said in a joint statement.

"And should it fail, we believe, the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the Iraqi people need to judge the government of Iraq's record and determine what actions should be taken -- consistent with the Iraqi Constitution -- to form a true unity government to meet those responsibilities.

In a teleconference with reporters, Levin said Iraqi leaders had failed to meet their own political benchmarks on sharing power and resources, modifying de-Baathification laws, scheduling provincial elections, or amending the constitution.

"So I hope that the Iraqi assembly, when it reconvenes in a few weeks, will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and a more unifying prime minister and government," he said.

A spokesman for US President George W. Bush, who was in Canada at a summit of North American leaders, said the White House was confident that Maliki's government would overcome obstacles to political reconciliation.

"We believe that Prime Minister Maliki and the Presidency Council will be able to get this important work done, work that is being done on the local level where we see bottom-up reconciliation taking hold," said national security council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

"Iraqi leaders are meeting now to reach a political accommodation among the various parties. We urge them to come together, reach agreements and show the Iraqi people and the rest of the world their determination to create a stable and prosperous Iraq," he said.

The senators said the US military's surge of 30,000 additional troops to Iraq and its new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq was having a "tangible" impact on security in parts of Baghdad.

They also noted positive developments in western al-Anbar province where Sunni tribes have turned against Al-Qaeda.

"We remain concerned, however, that in the absence of overall 'national' political reconciliation, we may be inadvertently helping to create another militia which will have to be dealt with in the future," they said.

They said that in all their meetings they had emphasized to Iraqi leaders that US patience had run out and that there was an urgent need for them to make "essential compromises."

"In all of our meetings we witnessed a great deal of apprehension regarding the capabilities of the current Iraqi government to shed its sectarian biases and act in a unifying manner," they said.

The senators also expressed concern about the state of the Iraqi military, which they said still lacked experienced leaders and critical capabilities needed to operate independently.

"Chief among these are modern small arms, artillery, combat and lift aviation, explosive ordnance disposal, transportation assets, and engineer capability essential for force protection," they said.

"Logistics capabilities are virtually non-existent and are a major hindrance to independent action," they said.

General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador in Baghdad, are due to make a pivotal assessment of the US strategy next month.

A White House spokesman said Petraeus and Crocker will testify before Congress September 11 and 12. He denied that the dates were picked to fall on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

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Security improves in Iraq despite attacks: US general
Washington (AFP) Aug 17, 2007
Security in Iraq is improving despite a wave of car bombings that include the worst single attack since the US-led invasion in 2003, the number-two leader of US forces in Iraq said Friday.

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