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President Meets Iraqi VP, Operations Continue in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2008 – President Bush noted the improved security situation in Iraq’s southern oil city of Basra following meetings with Iraqi Vice President Abd al-Mahdi in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
President Bush stands with Iraqi leaders after their meeting May 18, 2008, in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. With him, from left, are: Hoshyar Zeban, foreign minister; Vice President Abd al-Mahdi; and Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih. White House photo by Chris Greenberg

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Bush said he told Iraqi representatives at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East that he’s impressed with the progress being made in Iraq. “We talked about Basra and the success of the Iraqi government in Basra in dealing with Shia extremists,” Bush said.

The people of the Middle East must understand how important a successful Iraq is to the greater region, Bush said.

Al-Mahdi said the leaders discussed the way forward on the security, political and economic fronts. “We are working together, really, Iraq and the United States,” the vice president said. “And we were always optimistic even in the worst days.”

Operations in the north continue to put pressure on al Qaida in Iraq, while residents in the southern city of Basra are reaping the benefits of security.

Operations throughout Iraq show that Iraqi security forces are taking a larger role in bringing security to the people.

In the northern city of Mosul yesterday, Iraqi police unearthed a large weapons cache with hundreds of mortar and artillery rounds and rockets. Local Iraqi police acted on tips to find the cache, coalition officials said.

Also in Mosul, coalition forces captured three wanted terrorist suspects and detained a dozen additional men during operations targeting al Qaida in Iraq leadership and financiers Saturday and Sunday. Today, coalition forces disrupted a planned suicide car bombing attack and detained two suspected terrorists.

In Diyala, two female suicide bombers attacked Iraqi security forces and the Sons of Iraq, yesterday. The attacks killed one and wounded 17.

Iraqi security forces called on coalition air support during an operation near Khan Bani Saad, yesterday.

Iraqi soldiers were attempting to disarm a roadside bomb when they began taking fire. The attack killed one Iraqi soldier.

An Air Force jet dropped a precision-guided bomb and destroyed an arms cache and killed four enemy personnel. A coalition helicopter destroyed a suspect vehicle in the area. The attack resulted in five secondary explosions and the death of two suspects.

Iraqi soldiers captured a Shiia Special Groups cell leader, believed to be responsible for coordinating roadside bomb and rocket attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces in Husayniyah, approximately 20 miles north of Baghdad, May 16.

In Basra, Iraqi security forces are bringing stability to the streets, officials said. The oil-rich city is crucial to the Iraqi economy and the Iraqi security forces operations of the last month have largely taken back the city from criminal elements.

In the latest sign of returning security, Iraqi soldiers helped 550 patients at a public health assessment at Basra’s Tannumah District Public Health Clinic, May 11 to 14.

Baghdad remains a center of gravity for operations against al Qaida in Iraq, Special Groups and criminal elements, officials said. Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers killed two Special Groups criminals and discovered two weapons caches May 16. Multinational Division Center soldiers discovered two weapons caches in separate operations May 15 and 16.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 residents of Sadr City joined together for a peaceful prayer meeting coordinated by tribal leaders May 16.

The prayer meetings were organized to express a unified desire for the Iraqi government to restore peace and security to the district, officials said. It marked the first large gathering of local residents since March 23, when the security situation in Sadr City deteriorated due to the criminal activities.

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