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New Iraqi Government Takes Steps to Move Country Forward

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2006 – The new Iraqi government has taken several steps in recent days and weeks to move the country toward peace and prosperity, a senior U.S. military officer said yesterday.

Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, described some of these initiatives to reporters at a Baghdad news conference.

For example, the Iraqi government’s Council of Representatives passed a “Region’s Law” on Oct. 11. The law that focuses on an equable distribution of wealth and political power among Iraq’s multifaceted citizenry, Caldwell said. It also outlines procedures provinces would use in forming political regions as the result of voter referendums.

“This is a great beginning to addressing the worries of many Iraqis on fair distribution of wealth and political power,” Caldwell said.

The Council of Representatives also passed an investment law on Oct. 10. “This law will provide a legal and regulatory framework for companies -- foreign companies -- interested in investing in Iraq,” Caldwell explained. “The Iraqi government is also drafting a hydrocarbon law to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the natures of this country’s future oil revenues.”

In September, the Council of Representatives passed a law designed to thwart the black-marketing of gasoline and other fuels, Caldwell said. The new law also will bolster fuel supplies and cut corruption by opening up the country’s energy sector to private investment. Regulations pursuant to the new law are being developed and should be in place by the end of this year, Caldwell said.

Additionally, Iraqi and Turkish diplomats agreed Oct. 4 to resolve a three-year-old dispute over payments for fuel imports, Caldwell said. The funds involved in the dispute amounted to some $200 million.

Resolution of the Turkish-Iraqi dispute “was desperately needed to help open trade and alleviate Iraq’s fuel shortage,” Caldwell said.

In September, Iraq produced an average of 2.4 million barrels of oil per day, Caldwell noted. This rate surpasses the daily production goal of 2.2 million barrels of oil for the past six consecutive months. Through September, Iraqi oil sales revenues have exceeded projected estimates by about $1.5 billion, he said.

The Iraqi government also is working to reduce a national unemployment rate that’s now estimated to be 30 percent, Caldwell said. To support that effort, the government is assembling funding for an employment program that would train and employ 100,000 young men for two years.

All of these initiatives “are critical to Iraq’s future,” Caldwell said, noting that establishing security and raising the standard of living for Iraq’s citizens are closely related.

“As we have stated, if you want prosperity, you must have security,” Caldwell emphasized. “And, if you want security, you must have unity. We know this, and (Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki) knows this.”

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