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Iraq's FM: 'Great Deal' of Progress Achieved in Improving Security

Iraq's foreign minister says his government has made a "great deal" of progress in improving security in the country.

Hoshyar Zebari made the comment Thursday, adding that he hopes Iraqi leaders will make more progress on national reconciliation, ahead of key reports to the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, will testify before Congress next month about Iraq's political and security situation.

Zebari expressed optimism about a political deal announced Sunday by the country's top five Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders. Those leaders reached consensus on several key issues, including the holding of provincial elections, releasing prisoners, and allowing former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to hold public office.

The U.S. military announced the deaths of two American soldiers - one in an explosion Wednesday in Diyala province and the other during combat operations today in western Baghdad.

The military also said coalition forces killed two al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists and detained 36 others in central and northern Iraq.

In Karbala, Iraqi officials say security forces detained at least 30 people following deadly gunbattles this week between rival Shi'ite groups in the holy city.

Iraq's radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia to freeze its activities for six months after the fighting in Karbala.

Iraqi officials said gunmen loyal to al-Sadr took part in the violence - a charge the Mahdi Army denies.