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Iraqi Leader Vows Action Against Militia

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is promising a major crackdown on illegal militias, which are blamed for widespread sectarian violence. During a nationally televised speech Maliki also sharply rejected any suggestion that the U.S. government has imposed a timetable on his administration to improve security.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed Wednesday that his government would tackle, head on, the growing problem of illegal militias in Iraq.

He says Iraq will deal harshly with anyone who defies the law or undermines the authority of the state.

Maliki is under growing pressure from the United States to contain Iraq's growing sectarian violence.

But his critics are already accusing the prime minister of sending mixed messages.

This is not the first time Mr. Maliki has promised action against the militias and Mr. Maliki himself maintains ties with several Shiite parties linked to the powerful militias.

Wednesday, the prime minister also disavowed a pre-dawn raid on Sadr City, a key Baghdad stronghold for Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia.

At least four people were injured and 20 others wounded during the joint U.S. and Iraqi operation. U.S. officials say the raid targeted the alleged leader of a shiite death squad.

Mr. Maliki told reporters he was unaware of the operation before it began and promised similar raids will not be repeated.

The prime minister's comments come a day after the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad said Iraqi leaders have accepted a timetable for improving security.

Wednesday, Mr. Maliki angrily dismissed claims that Washington had imposed deadlines on Iraq. He said the country's elected leaders are the only people who can set timelines and change policy.

He also accused Iraq's neighbors of meddling in the country's internal affairs.

U.S. officials have specifically accused both Syria and Iran of arming militant groups inside Iraq.