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Iraqi FM Optimistic About Political Progress in Iraq

17 June 2007

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says his country's politicians are doing the best they can to move as quickly as they can to resolve important political issues. But, he added that resolving these issues would not be forced to conform to any timetable. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari pointed to his government's handling of the latest bombing on a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra as an example of how its leadership abilities have strengthened.

"Unlike last time, the government moved faster this time, and controlled the situation," said Hoshyar Zebari. "And we did not see the backlash and the killing we saw a year and a half ago, when the first bombing happened."

Zebari told CNN's Late Edition religious and political leaders united to prevent the sectarian violence and killing that occurred in the wake of the previous bombing of the Samarra mosque. The government lifted its four-day curfew Sunday.

Meanwhile, Zebari said he is optimistic Iraqis will make progress on political benchmarks they set for themselves, although he added that they will not force their efforts to any timetable. He said some concrete achievements he sees in the near future include passing a law to determine how to divide the country's oil wealth and a report by the Constitutional review commission.

"So, there is movement on this, but not the speed that our American friends would like to see," he said.

Zebari said the Iraqi parliament has a full agenda and will only take, in his words, "a couple of weeks," off for summer vacation.

General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander of international troops in Iraq, is preparing to deliver a situation report to President Bush and Congress in September. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, he said there is still time for the Iraqi government to make further improvements.

"They [Iraqi government] recognize fully that our [international troops] ability to help them in the future depends on the progress that they show over the course of the next few months," said General Petraeus.

At the same time, U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, voiced Washington's understanding that Iraqi leaders face a difficult task. He appeared on the NBC television program Meet the Press.

"There is nothing easy about the task in front of them," said Ambassador Crocker. "And I have certainly been struck, since I have been here, that the amount of commitment and effort that senior Iraqi officials have demonstrated, to try and get the job done."

But Crocker warned that he senses growing impatience in Washington for Iraqi leaders to speed up their political reconciliation efforts.

"A concern I have had, and both General Petraeus and I have articulated it, that there are two clocks, and the Washington clock is running a lot faster than the Baghdad clock," he said.

Foreign Minister Zebari holds meetings Monday in Washington for meetings with U.S. officials. His visit follows recent trips to Baghdad by American officials, including Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

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