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International Conference on Iraq Draws Shrugs from Iraqis

At the international conference in Egypt, aimed at bringing stability to Iraq, there was only limited interaction between Iran and the United States. With no breakthroughs and no high-level meetings between the two countries, Iraqi officials say the willingness of nations to hold such talks is a good start for improving the situation. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from northern Iraq on the reaction from Iraqis.

Following the talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki told reporters that officials at the conference agreed there are internal and external problems driving the violence in Iraq, and they agreed to help improve security.

The prime minister says he thinks it was a good start because officials began to name the source of the problems. 

U.S. officials have accused Iran of supporting insurgent groups inside Iraq. U.S. officials have also accused Syria of not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq from Syrian territory. 

While Prime Minister Maliki said some of Iraq's problems are from outside its borders, he said the country has significant internal problems that cannot be ignored.

It is those problems that have caused many Iraqis to question the government's ability to stabilize the country.  Mr. Maliki's Shi'ite majority government has been consistently criticized by Sunni lawmakers, but in March Shi'ite lawmakers from the Fadilah party withdrew from Mr. Maliki's Shi'ite alliance, and ministers loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al Sadr have left the cabinet.

After years of vows by politicians to stabilize the capital, residents of the city say they are skeptical of more promises of better security.

Resident Haider Abbas says the talks are in the interest of political leaders, not for the Iraqi people.

Another resident, Saad Ali, says the Sharm el Sheik conference is like other Arab conferences, where the people see seriousness, but no action.

Baghdad residents are waiting to see if the U.S. and Iraqi security operation aimed at stabilizing the capital will finally produce results.  Prime Minister Maliki has heavily promoted the operation, and Iraqis see it as a crucial test for his government.

U.S. commanders are expected to report on the plan's success by September. 

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