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Iraqi Shi'ite Leader Upbeat on Future


A senior Iraqi Shi'ite leader says his country is taking important steps toward a brighter future in matters of security, national reconciliation, governance, and the economy. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington.

The head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, says his country has seen a dramatic reduction in sectarian violence and terrorist attacks in recent months. Speaking through a translator in Washington Monday, Hakim also pointed to political achievements by the country's often-fractured leadership.

"Among them are the achievement of national reconciliation, which we have accomplished a good part of, continuous work towards [re]building all of Iraq, and fighting administrative corruption. We have made good progress on important laws, like the law of oil and gas, the law of the provinces, the law of elections. And [we are] getting ready for new elections in all the provinces," he said.

Hakim, who heads the United Iraqi Alliance, the largest political coalition in Iraq's national government, was speaking at the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace. He noted that work remains to be done in building Iraq's security forces so that the country can defend itself from its enemies. But he said he is hopeful and confident about the future of democracy in his country.

"We are aware of the difficulties that we are facing in Iraq. We have great hopes that the good countries of the world will stand with out Iraqi people in our struggle to build a country based on the rule of law," he said.

Hakim's private visit to Washington comes at a time when America's involvement in Iraq remains a controversial and divisive subject. President Bush has hailed recent reductions in violence in Iraq as a clear sign that the U.S. military surge in the country is working. He continues to urge the opposition-led U.S. Congress to approve new funds for the war in Iraq, and insists such funds come with no target dates for an eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces.

But Democratic Party leaders complain that Iraq's leaders are moving too slowly on national reconciliation, and will never make difficult choices so long as the United States maintains an open-ended military commitment in the country.

Hakim met privately with President Bush in Washington last week.

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