Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Iraq still needs help: Iraqi official

AP , UNITED NATIONS

Iraqi security forces and US troops are gaining the upper hand, but the new government still needs outside help maintaining control, the Iraqi foreign minister told the UN Security Council on Friday.

“Their efforts have won them the trust and cooperation of the Iraqi people and, with the support of the multinational forces, they have turned the corner in the fight against the insurgency and terrorism in Iraq,” Hoshyar Zebari said.

US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, this month’s council president, also cited “significant” security gains.

But Zebari said the 600,000-strong Iraqi forces, now charged with protecting about half the country’s 18 provinces, still fall “short of being able to independently assume full responsibility for the maintenance of security in all Iraqi territory.”

Zebari said Iraq “welcomes the continued support” of the international forces.

“We also note and encourage the trend to increase the presence of the United Nations and its specialized agencies in Iraq,” he said.

But he asked the council for “a reconsideration of Iraq’s compensatory obligations that have increased considerably in magnitude over the last year.”

Zebari said Iraq is “burdened by the heavy legacy of debt incurred by the previous regime.”

Iraq also worries it could lose immunity against lawsuits from victims of the late president Saddam Hussein’s regime, once the UN mandate for international forces in Iraq — mostly US troops — ends on Dec. 31, diplomats say.

Among the options are extending the mandate past this year to give time to work out the immunity issue and for Iraq and the US to work out a long-term treaty.

“We’re committing to working with them to find an alternative framework,” said Khalilzad, speaking for the council.

The US is negotiating a long-term security relationship with Iraq that would provide a legal basis for the presence of US forces in Iraq after the UN mandate expires. But on Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the talks were deadlocked.

Zebari also told reporters of “difficulties” in the talks with the US over questions about immunity, sovereignty and other issues. But, he said: “Well, I’m hopeful, you see, because Iraq does need … this agreement, I think, and it corresponds to its needs for the time being.”

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