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US and Iraq Pledge Economic Cooperation


U.S. officials have praised Iraq's recent efforts to develop its economy and pledged cooperation on banking and trade. But Iraqi officials say the lack of security is still restricting investment and growth. Daniel Schearf reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

American and Iraqi officials wound up two days of talks Thursday aimed at finding ways to improve Iraq's fledgling economy.

David McCormick, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs, says Baghdad has made progress on its budget, the reform of state-owned banks, and cracking down on corruption. "I think I speak for all my colleagues at this table when I say that you will find in this team a group that is absolutely committed to working with you, working with your leadership in the coming months, and bringing all the commitment and focus and resources we can bring to bear to ensure the success of what you're doing," he said.

U.S. officials have said Iraq should take advantage of recent security gains to improve the economy.

Although security is still a problem, the number of terrorist attacks is down by sixty percent from the levels of June with a surge in U.S. troops and cooperation with militia groups.

The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, says improvements in security have come at an extremely high price in the lives of Iraqi and coalition soldiers and police. "We owe it to them, Iraqi and collation men and women, who gave their lives to make Iraq a better place that we move ahead with the economic development and reform that will cement the security gains permanently," he said.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,000 U.S. troops have been killed since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Iraq has struggled to develop its economy after years of fighting, economic sanctions, and a largely centrally controlled economy.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Barhim Salih, says terrorism, criminals, and corruption are slowing improvements.

He warns security gains will be lost if they do not make needed improvements to unite all Iraqis against fundamentalists and terrorists. He says security will deteriorate if they fail to improve services for Iraqis and their daily lives.

Political infighting over budgets and oil revenue sharing has held up spending on civil services and investment, and increased sectarian distrust.

Iraq this week approved a budget law after months of delay, but politicians have yet to agree on oil revenue sharing.