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American Forces Press Service

Rice Welcomes Iraq's First Ambassador to U.S. in 15 Years

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2006 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted the credentials of Iraq's first ambassador to the United States in 15 years yesterday at the State Department.

Ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaidaie told Rice he was "honored and delighted to be here today as the first ambassador for the state of Iraq in 15 years and the first ambassador since we got rid of the regime of Saddam Hussein with your help."

Sumaidaie, who was appointed Iraq's permanent representative to the United Nations in August 2004, said he looks forward to working with the United States on behalf of the Iraqi people. His goal, he said, is "to bring a better understanding of the aspirations of the people of Iraq for democracy, freedom and a better life, which we are determined we will achieve with the help of our friends."

"I know that you're going to be working very hard on behalf of your emerging new nation," Rice said, noting the milestone of working with the ambassador of a free Iraq. "The struggle is long and hard toward democracy, but it is always worth it," she said. "I look forward to working with you for Iraq's complete integration into the international system and for the cementing of the friendship between the United States and Iraq and the peoples of the United States and Iraq."

Before accepting his U.N. post, Sumaidaie was Iraq's interior minister. He is credited with making considerable progress in restructuring the ministry, according to the U.N. Web site.

He also served in Iraq's Governing Council during its formation in July 2003. Within the council, he was chairman of the media committee and played a leading role in founding the Iraqi Telecoms and Media Commission and the Public Broadcasting Institution. He also was active in the council's security, finance and foreign relations committees.

During Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, Sumaidaie was actively involved in opposition efforts, the U.N. Web site notes. He co-founded the Patriotic Democratic Alliance in February 2004 and is recognized as a liberal democratic secular figure in Iraqi politics.

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