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Iraqi Foreign Minister Says 'Great Deal' of Progress Achieved in Improving Security


30 August 2007

Iraq's foreign minister says his government has made a "great deal" of progress in improving security in the country.

Hoshyar Zebari also said Thursday he hopes Iraqi leaders will make more progress on national reconciliation, ahead of key reports to the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, will testify before Congress on Iraq's political and security situation next month.

Zebari expressed optimism about a political deal announced Sunday by the country's top five Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders.

The leaders reached consensus on several key issues, including the holding of provincial elections, releasing prisoners and allowing former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to hold public office.

In other developments, the U.S. military says coalition forces killed two al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists and detained 36 others Thursday in central and northern Iraq.

The military also says a bomb blast killed an American soldier Wednesday in Diyala province.

In Karbala, Iraqi officials say security forces detained at least 30 people following deadly gunbattles this week between rival Shi'ite groups in the holy city.

Iraq's radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia to freeze its activities for six months after the fighting in Karbala.

Iraqi officials said gunmen loyal to al-Sadr took part in the violence, a charge the Mahdi Army denies.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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