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Iraqi PM In USA.

Visiting Washington for the first time, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki on July 26 told a joint session of the US Congress his country's future depended on continued US commitment, stressing that the "fate of our country and yours is tied". He said Iraqi society was part of true Islam and was facing terrorism from [Neo-Salafi Sunni] groups which had noting to do with Islam. He said it was "your duty and our duty to defeat this terror".

The 30-minute speech, punctuated by respectful applause and a few standing ovations, was light on substantive reports of progress or details about how sectarian violence would be reduced. It stuck to more abstract themes about Iraq's position in the front line of the war against terrorism. He said: "Should democracy be allowed to fail in Iraq and terror permitted to triumph, then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere". Acknowledging the sectarian violence which had prompted a new security plan for Baghdad, he added: "The journey has been perilous, and the future is not guaranteed".

The address was interrupted by an anti-war protester, dressed in a pink tutu, who shouted: "Iraqis want the troops home! Bring them home now". The prospects of this were played down in the address of Maliki: "The completion of Iraq's forces form the necessary basis for the withdrawal of multinational forces. But it is only then, only when Iraq's forces are fully capable, will the job of the multinational forces be complete".

Before the speech, Maliki sought to avert an embarrassing boycott of his address by dozens of Democrats who had expressed outrage at his failure to condemn the actions of Hizbullah. Meetings with senior leaders helped avert that threat. It dwindled into a modest boycott involving just two senators, Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer. Tony Snow, White House spokesman, said: "I don't see what is so surprising about Prime Minister Maliki having his own opinion on the Middle East...the president is not the puppeteer. The prime minister is a freely elected leader".

Even so, some of Maliki's lines echoed key administration themes. The White House acknowledged having had conversations about the speech with the Iraqi leader. Where President Bush has hailed liberty as "God's gift to humanity", Maliki said: "I believe these human rights are not an artifact construct reserved for the few. They are the divine entitlement for all".
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Title Annotation:Nouri al-Maliki
Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jul 31, 2006
Previous Article:Iran Nuclear Deal In Peril.
Next Article:Hizbullah's Surprises.

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