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Iraq's PM Calls For Regional Security Conference Amid Sectarian Killings 


Iraq's prime minister says his country will hold a national reconciliation conference to address its deepening political and security crisis. Nouri al-Maliki said after that Iraq would invite regional neighbors to discuss combating terrorism in his country. Iraq's security problems were highlighted Tuesday when at least 30 people were killed in several attacks in Baghdad. VOA's Margaret Besheer has more from Northern Iraq.

In a nationally televised address, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said a national conference would take place later this month to try to reconcile Iraq's rival religious communities.

Sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims has killed thousands of Iraqis in the past several months.

Mr. Maliki announced that he would also send envoys to neighboring countries to encourage their cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Iraq.

The prime minister said that once the political climate is conducive, Iraq would then convene a regional conference and invite neighboring countries who want to see stability and security in Iraq.

The government's eagerness to involve regional neighbors in helping calm the rising tide of sectarian violence was apparent at a meeting of the Arab League's Iraq Committee in Cairo. During the meeting, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari urged his Sunni Arab neighbors to become more involved in Iraq, saying their lack of support had led to Iran's rising influence in his country.

Later, Zebari told reporters that Iraq's government, its politicians and other groups would welcome Arab action in trying to improve the situation.

The security crisis is deepening, with dozens killed in new attacks in Baghdad Tuesday.

The U.S. military said gunmen attacked a mini bus carrying members of a Shi'ite society in the northern part of the city, killing and injuring more than a dozen people. The shooting was followed by a car bomb attack, but the military says that did not cause any further injuries.

In a separate attack in the capital, police say multiple car bombs detonated near a gasoline station.

In spite of the deteriorating security situation, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq says the American military expects the entire country to be under the control of Iraqi forces by mid-2007.

Major General William Caldwell told reporters that the plan is part of an accelerated timetable discussed by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki during their meeting last week in Jordan .

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