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Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton Visits Baghdad

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton is in Baghdad with a delegation of Congress members to meet with representatives of the U.S. military and Iraqi government officials. VOA's Jim Randle reports from Baghdad.

Senator Clinton says she wants to hear from Iraqi officials how they plan to stem the violence here.

Clinton says she wants to know if they are ready to make the "tough decisions" needed for Iraq's government to succeed.

The visit by the U.S. congressional delegation comes as many members of the Democratic-controlled Congress are expressing opposition to President Bush's plan to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Saturday expressed support for President Bush's new Iraq strategy. A statement issued by his office says U.S. forces will be working in support of Iraqi troops as they implement the prime minister's plan to restore peace to Baghdad.

President Bush's proposed plan also would increase the money and resources intended to help Iraq's economy.

In Baghdad, U.S. diplomat Dan Speckhard says some Iraqi and community leaders tell him Iraq's success hinges on doing more to bolster the battered economy and provide jobs.

He says militias, or other armed groups, will step in and fill the vacuum, if local governments fail to meet the needs of citizens.

"You have less space for militias to try to move in, and say, 'well, hey, if the government can't do this, we will start providing services, meeting your needs,' and at the same time have that undesirable effect of actually causing additional friction, sectarian friction, and oftentimes sectarian violence," he said.

Speckhard recently spoke to reporters about plans to sharply increase the number of provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq.

Leaders of some of these teams say they are making progress toward making local governments more transparent and responsive to citizens, making the justice system more professional and more fair, and improving the climate for business.

But they face daunting security problems and have seen some team members killed, and some Iraqi partners kidnapped or murdered.

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