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Iraqi Prime Minister Responds To U.S. Critics

September 2, 2007 -- Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has again responded to his U.S. critics, saying that they do not understand the difficulties of rebuilding after decades of war and dictatorship.

He also says they fail to appreciate Iraq's achievements.

Two opposition Democratic U.S. senators, Carl Levin (Michigan) and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton (New York), recently called for al-Maliki to be replaced, urging Iraqi lawmakers to choose someone else to lead Iraq's ruling coalition and seek national reconciliation.

More recently, news emerged on September 1 of a draft report by the U.S. Embassy in Iraq that says al-Maliki's government is plagued by corruption and has quashed investigations of its political allies.

A U.S. National Public Radio broadcast, citing the report, said al-Maliki's government was failing to stop officials from committing fraud and that some ministries were seen as untouchable because of their political connections. NPR said the report was sensitive but not classified.

The embassy said the report was still in draft form and there were questions about the reliability of some sources.

GAO Report Due

Two leading U.S. newspapers have quoted a draft of a separate report on Iraq as saying that Baghdad has not met most of the 18 goals set by the U.S. Congress for progress in Iraq.

The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) is due to issue a report to Congress on September 4 as Congress struggles to hold the White House to benchmark goals since the addition of 30,000 more U.S. troops this year.

"The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" have reported that a draft of that GAO report said Baghdad had failed to meet most of the 18 goals set by the U.S. Congress for progress in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced today that his country will keep its troops in Iraq. Speaking to reporters in Sydney, he said that "it's very difficult times for the U.S." and it is necessary to show solidarity with Washington as one of Australia's key allies. There are 1,500 Australian troops in Iraq.


Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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