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20 May 2006

New Unity Government Is Milestone for Iraq, Ambassador Says

Agreement brings Iraqi communities together according to U.S. envoy Khalilzad

By Howard Cincotta
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- The new democratic government of national unity in Iraq represents an event without precedence in the country's history, and will provide a strong foundation for securing a better future of the Iraqi people, according to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

"The Iraqi people can take pride in their democratic leaders, who worked through their differences and formed a government of national unity," Ambassador Khalilzad said in a press interview from Baghdad, Iraq, on May 20. Iraqi leaders also showed their willingness to compromise, share power, and work for reconciliation, he added. (See related article.)

The ambassador also called upon the international community "to support the new democratically elected government of Iraq," declaring that the future of Iraq will determine the future of Greater Middle East.

Although the key posts of defense minister and interior minister remain vacant, Khalilzad expressed confidence that the new prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, would be able to fill them shortly.  The new government is determined, he said, to appoint individuals who "are unifiers, not dividers, " he said, and not linked to the crimes of the Saddam regime or to any armed militia groups.

Khalilzad pledged that the United States would work with the new government for the security and economic prosperity of the Iraqi people, although he acknowledged that the defeat of the insurgency and improved security will take time.  (See related article.)

All the major communities in Iraq "are now stakeholders" in the new government of national unity, Khalilzad said, which now can work more effectively for reconciliation, unity, and issues such as sectarian violence and the armed militias.

Khalilzad denied that the U.S. had exerted excessive pressure on Iraqi leaders to reach agreement,  "I have been available to Iraqi leaders day or night, and held a lot of meetings with all factions and all groups, often at their request," he said.  "But decisions ultimately were always Iraqi decisions."

The ambassador expressed pleasure in the performance of incoming Prime Minister al-Maliki, whom he described as an "effective, hands-on, no-nonsense leader ... who can build trust and reconciliation among the Iraqi people."

Khalilzad said that among the new government's top priorities would be improved security in Baghdad, along with renewed efforts to generate and distribute electricity more widely.

Prime Minister Maliki stressed security and basic services such as power and water in his address to the Iraqi parliament, according to a Reuters news report, and pledged to "work within a framework that will preserve the unity of the Iraqi people."

In a statement issued later that day, President Bush congratulated the Iraqi prime minister on the formation of the new unity government, saying, “Iraqis now have a fully constitutional government, marking the end of a democratic transitional process in Iraq that has been both difficult and inspiring.”

Bush, noting that Iraq likely will face great challenges during this new chapter in its history, said that its leaders will not face those challenges alone. “The United States and freedom-loving nations around the world will stand with Iraq as it takes its place among the world’s democracies and as an ally in the war on terror.”

The full text of the president’s statement is available on the White House Web site.

For more information, see Iraq Update.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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