Maliki: Iraq Forces to Take Over Security in '07

By THOMAS WAGNER and SAMEER N. YACOUB
The Associated Press
Thursday, November 30, 2006; 5:57 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday he believed Iraqi forces would be ready by June 2007 to take full control of security in Iraq, an issue on which he pressed President Bush during their meeting in Amman, Jordan.

In making the argument that his military and police could handle security in the country, al-Maliki has routinely said the force could do the job within six months.

"I can say that Iraqi forces will be ready, fully ready to receive this command and to command its own forces, and I can tell you that by next June our forces will be ready," al-Maliki said in an interview with ABC News.

Bush and al-Maliki agreed that the United States would speed efforts to turn security over the Iraqi forces, although they mentioned no timetable during a post-summit news conference.

Al-Maliki also said he rejects all Iraq's militias, including the Madhi Army of the powerful, anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is a key ally of the Shiite prime minister. Despite such promises in the past, al-Maliki has frustrated the Bush administration by doing little to curb militias, which have been heavily involved in Iraq's spiraling sectarian violence in city's such as Baghdad.

Al-Malaki said he reassured Bush of "the government's resolve to impose the government's authority, bring stability, hold to account outlaws, and limit the possession of arms to the hands of the government."

Al-Maliki said he was determined to ensure that Iraq's security forces have the weapons and the training needed to fight more effectively on the battlefield.

"We mean by arming, the weapons fit to fight the terrorists ... the light and effective weapons, vehicles, armor vehicles and helicopters that will be active in the next phase in the fight against the terrorists," he said.

One of the main goals of the U.S. coalition is to train enough Iraqi soldiers and police to take over its security responsibilities, especially in western Iraq, where al-Qaida in Iraq is powerful, and Baghdad, where fighting between Sunni militants and Shiite militias is escalating.

Bush said the U.S. would accelerate a planned handover of security responsibility to Iraqi forces but assured al-Maliki that Washington is not looking for a "graceful exit" from the war.

Earlier Thursday, al-Maliki called on lawmakers and Cabinet ministers loyal to al-Sadr to end their boycott of the government in response to his summit with Bush.

"I hope they reconsider their decision because it doesn't constitute a positive development in the political process," al-Maliki said at a news conference on his return to Baghdad from a two-day visit to neighboring Jordan, where he met with Bush and King Abdullah II.


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