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A Conversation With Adel Abdul Mahdi

If the United States doesn't have the right to use our military the way we want to and we're operating under the sovereignty of your government, what good are additional U.S. troops?

This is one of the good understandings between us and the Americans. We are very fair on the security issue whether it concerns militias or insurgents. But we are very open in the political process. We want to bring more Shiites on board, more Sunnis on board. I have been asked to be responsible for the political issues within this security plan.

Do you think restoring security in Iraq is doable?

I was in the United States in 2003 and 2004. People were so optimistic at that time, whether Iraqis or Americans. We couldn't tell them that there was a mess in Iraq. We were telling them to be more practical.

Now people are so pessimistic and you can't tell them that this country has a chance.

All Americans see on TV screens are Sunnis slaughtering Shiites and ethnic cleansing in the streets.

Unfortunately this is true. But this is only one part of the picture. Only 12 months ago, we had elections and 12 million people voted, Sunnis and Shiites.

What can you show in the next couple of months that will inspire confidence?

If we can succeed in Baghdad, then we can give hope, not only to Americans but also to Iraqis. If we can improve services in Baghdad, then journalists will see that, and we'll have a new image.

Do you believe you can really work with the Sunnis?

Of course, yes. Now in the parliament, you can see Sunnis and Shiites. You never saw that before in a country like Iraq.

But there is ethnic cleansing going on in Baghdad.

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