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Iraq's US Ambassador Calls for Regional Help at US-Arab Economic Forum

Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaida'ie, spoke at the final luncheon of the US-Arab Economic Forum in Houston Wednesday, calling on neighboring nations to give more assistance to his country's recovery.

On the third and final day of the US-Arab Economic Forum, the Iraqi ambassador spoke of his nation's efforts to overcome decades of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein and the current struggle to achieve peace and stability.

Ambassador Sumaida'ie said people from other Arab nations who can help Iraq are welcome. "We have the skills, we have the needs. We will have the resources. We need everybody to come in and chip in and provide materials, help us with expertise," he said.

The Iraqi diplomat praised the United States and other nations whose troops are in the multinational force in Iraq, saying their support is needed to maintain order while the government works to gain its footing. A major goal of his government, he said, is to bring dissident factions, including some who have committed acts of violence, into the political system.

"This government made it clear that it is moving in that direction, in the direction of reconciliation, of reducing tensions," he said.

On Sunday the Iraqi government unveiled a plan that would provide amnesty for thousands of suspected insurgents provided they pledge to condemn violence and back the government. Critics have attacked the plan as being too vague and allowing to go free many people guilty of attacking Iraqi forces and multinational troops.

But Ambassador Sumaida'ie said such steps are part of the overall effort to reduce violence in his country. He said insecurity is the number one problem in Iraq and that economic growth will follow quickly any successful reduction in violence.

"Once we can stabilize the security situation, I believe, the economic reconstruction will proceed exponentially, because there is a lot of appetite for investment in Iraq and there are a lot of Iraqis and non-Iraqis who want to go back and invest," he said.

The Iraqi ambassador blamed much of the strife in his country on foreigners who he said have come there to attack US troops. But he said US troops are needed until Iraq's own security forces are ready.

In this regard, he suggested his government may be exploring more innovative approaches to preparing forces to combat insurgents.

"At the moment our biggest priority is security. It is not so much how many police men or troops we have, it is the quality and reliability of these forces. So we should put resources into that. We should use the latest technology in helping us to manage and issue identification cards and uniforms that cannot be copied and replicated by terrorists and so on," he said.

The Iraqi ambassador to the United States spoke on the final day of the US-Arab Economic Forum, which was attended by numerous officials from the Middle East as well as US officials, US business representatives and leaders of several Arab-American organizations.