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    Iraq's Maliki Rebukes US Critics

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is lashing out at his American critics. Meanwhile, top leaders from Iraq's Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions say they have agreed to resolve key issues of dispute to boost national reconciliation. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports several prominent members of the U.S. Senate have urged Prime Minister al-Maliki  removal.

    Prime Minister Maliki took aim at the criticism at a Baghdad news conference.

    He specifically mentioned Senators Hillary Clinton of New York, a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan. Both have called for his ouster.

    The prime minister said they do not understand the political situation in Iraq. He said they need to "come to their senses" and stop treating Iraq, in his words, "as if it were one of their villages."

    In a series of interviews Sunday on American television, several Senators from both political parties said they also have concerns about the pace of political progress in Iraq, though some said the fault does not necessarily lie directly with Mr. Maliki.

    Speaking on the FOX News Sunday program, Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island said there is good reason to be critical of the political leadership in Iraq.

    "I think the criticism is fair," said Jack Reed. "I think one issue though is we sometimes over-personalize this issue. The notion that if Maliki goes then everything will be fine, I think misses the point that the institutional capacity in Iraq, the ability to do simple things like make contracts, provide civil services to the people, that's not present after four years."

    A senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, former Chairman John Warner of Virginia, made headlines this past week when he urged the Bush administration to begin drawing down the number of U.S. troops in Iraq later this year. Warner told NBC's Meet the Press the current surge in American troops was designed to give the Iraqis time to make progress, but the Maliki government has not lived up to its obligations.

    "The government under the leadership of Maliki and other Iraqi leaders has totally failed to put the other part of that partnership in place, namely, deliver greater security," said Senator Warner.

    But other Republicans say the comments from Senator Warner do not mean party members are ready to desert President Bush on Iraq. Appearing on ABC's This Week, Senator John Cornyn of Texas said Warner was expressing his own, personal frustration with the pace of progress in Iraq.

    "Senator Warner is a great patriot and a student of history, and he is clearly sending a signal to the Iraqis that our patience is not unlimited and that is correct," said Senator Cornyn. "But I don't think it is in our best interest to put so much pressure on the new Iraqi government that it absolutely collapses."

    The Iraq war will be the top issue on the Congressional agenda when lawmakers reconvene in Washington in a little over a week from now. A few days later, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker will report to Congress on progress in Iraq since the arrival of 30,000 additional U.S. troops.

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