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Iraqi Deputy PM Urges US Patience with Pace of Political Reforms


Iraq's deputy prime minister Barham Salih is calling on U.S. officials and the American people to be patient with the pace of political reforms in his country. VOA's Stephanie Ho has more on the story from Washington.

Iraqi deputy prime minister Barham Salih pointed out that although security improvements have been made in Iraq, more still needs to be done politically.

"I agree and I am willing to acknowledge that we need to do more on the political track," he said. "The political leadership of this country, under pressure both from the Iraqi public as well as our friends in the United States, understand the imperative of making some real tangible progress."

Salih appeared on the cable news channel CNN's Late Edition.

He was responding to criticism from Washington, where lawmakers have questioned the continuation of the U.S. military commitment to Iraq if Baghdad leaders do not make adequate political advances.

Senator Olympia Snowe told CBS's Face the Nation program she believes Iraqi political accomplishment is, in her words, "pivotal and central to the success of Iraq."

"And there is nothing to demonstrate at this time that would warrant our confidence that they are going to implement the political benchmarks that they themselves established almost a year ago," she said. "And all the deadlines have come and gone and nothing has happened."

One of those political benchmarks is a U.S.-backed oil law, which calls for a fair distribution of oil income among Iraq's three main ethnic groups - the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. It has been approved by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet, but has not been sent to parliament because of major opposition.

Iraqi deputy prime minister Salih said implementing the oil revenue sharing law is not a simple proposition for Iraq.

"For a country like Iraq, having been ruled by the dictatorship for so many decades, we are now trying to bring about an oil law that will change fundamentally the character and the structure of management of oil in our country," he said. "In your country, how long would it take to do so? In our country, we try to do this in a matter of months."

He said Iraqi lawmakers, faced with criticism they plan to take a vacation while laws need to be enacted, say they are willing to stay in session provided the government submits to them a coherent legislative agenda.

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