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PM Maliki Says Iraq Has Made Progress But Needs More Time for Security


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says his country has made progress toward improving security, but Iraqi forces are not yet ready to take over full responsibility from the U.S. military. VOA's Jim Randle reports from Baghdad.

In an address to Iraq's Parliament, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said there were "clear-cut improvements" in the security situation, but said Iraq needs more time and effort before the country's armed forces can take over security in all of Iraq's provinces. He said the multi-national forces had helped Iraq in a "great way."

Mr. Maliki said violence declined about 75 percent in Baghdad and al-Anbar Province after Washington sent an extra 30,000 troops to Iraq in a "surge" that began in February.

The prime minister told lawmakers that his government has achieved success in preventing Iraq from slipping into a civil war.

The prime minister addressed Parliament shortly before the U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker were to deliver an assessment of the Iraq situation to the U.S. Congress.

Many residents of Baghdad are following the debate in Washington over what course the United States should take in Iraq.

Baghdad resident, Adel Ali, says the Petraeus report might help Iraq.

"I hope it will get a new success and I hope for peace in my country by the effort of Iraqi people," said Ali. "And I hope all of Iraq will be good and the U.S. troops will get back and we have good relationship with the United States and not just the United States, but with all people in the world."

But another Baghdad resident is skeptical about the U.S.-led effort.

Mohammed Ahmed told journalists he doubts the Petraeus report will help the Iraqi people, and says U.S. forces should leave Iraq as soon as possible.

The Maliki government has gotten considerable criticism for failing to ease sectarian conflicts in the country and make the kinds of political compromises needed to pass laws seen by Washington as vital to political reconciliation. Those laws include controversial measures covering the distribution of oil revenue and easing restrictions that kept former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party out of public office.

But the British Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Prentice, is optimistic that things will turn around.

"I see grounds for optimism that this good progress that has been made can be built on, but that will depend on the energetic engagement, with good will, by all sides," said Prentice.

Sunday, Mr. Maliki asked neighboring nations for the good will needed to stop what he called "evil forces" from destabilizing the region. He made the appeal at a Baghdad conference attended by neighboring countries, representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations.

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