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Prime Minister's Reconciliation Plan Gives Hope for Future, General Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2006 – The national reconciliation and dialogue plan announced June 25 by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is the beginning of a healing process for the country of Iraq and its people, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said today.

"The prime minister launched a process by which all Iraqis can heal, the nation can mend, and the future can be written in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people," Army Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell said in a news conference from Iraq.

Maliki's initiative includes all Iraqi citizens and is based in economic policies that foster opportunity while still addressing basic needs such as electricity, water, employment and education, Caldwell said. The plan does not include amnesty for terrorists, he said, but offers a pardon to criminals who were not involved with terrorism or crimes against humanity.

The prime minister's initiative is really the beginning of a long process that will require frank talk, respect for human rights, and the earnest participation of the Iraqi people and their leaders, Caldwell said. Underscored in the plan is the need for a capable Iraqi security force to establish order, enforce the law and protect the people, he said.

"This is not an end-all discussion. This is the beginning of a long, tough process that the Iraqi government's going to go through with all of its leaders," he said.

U.S. and coalition forces will continue to support the Iraqi government and security forces as this process moves forward, Caldwell said.

"With national reconciliation and dialogue, Iraqis can demonstrate partnership with their elected leaders," he said. "Iraq can stride forward in peace and prosperity -- whole, healed, capable and hopeful."

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, also praised the reconciliation and dialogue plan, and pledged U.S. support as Iraq moves ahead.

"We will work together to help Iraq stand on its own feet as soon as possible," Khalizad said in a statement June 25.

The reconciliation initiative has the support of all of Iraq's major communities, Khalizad said, and will require strong leadership during its implementation.

"I urge the Iraqi leaders to move expeditiously in implementing this project," he said. "The leaders of Iraq's various communities should truly be leaders to their people, and begin to take responsibility for bringing sectarian violence to an end."

National reconciliation does not mean all Iraqis must agree on how to resolve the challenges facing the country, but it means the disagreements must be expressed through dialogue and not violence, Khalizad said.

"The time has come for Iraqis to resolve their disputes through the political process and the rule of law rather than at the point of a gun," he said.

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