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Violence Decreases in Iraq, Reconciliation Progresses

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2006 – Violence in Baghdad has decreased over the past five weeks, and the Iraqi government is committed to reconciliation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Iraq's Deputy President Adil al-Mahdi said here today.

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Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, center, escorts Iraqi Deputy President Adil Abd al-Mahdi through an honor guard cordon at the Pentagon Aug. 25, 2006. Defense Dept. photo by R. D. Ward

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

Following a meeting at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld and al-Mahdi spoke about progress in Iraq with reporters. The secretary praised the work of Iraqi security forces, which he said now number more than 267,000. He said there has been a reduction in the levels of violence and in the numbers of attacks, particularly in areas U.S. and Iraqi forces have been able to clear.

While U.S. and Iraqi forces together have made progress in reducing violence in Baghdad, Rumsfeld stressed the Iraqi people and their government hold the key to long-term stability and security.

"The important thing is for the Iraqi government to achieve success with respect to their reconciliation process," he said. "This is not purely a military problem, and it is not going to be solved purely by military forces."

Rumsfeld said the Iraqi government is committed to achieving reconciliation among various groups.

"Admittedly, it is a lot easier to talk about it than to do it," he said. "It's been done in other countries. I believe it can be achieved here. They're going to have to work very hard on it, and it's going to take some time, but it is a process, not an event."

Al-Mahdi said the process is taking place. The national unity government of Iraq has both a working reconciliation plan and a good plan to secure Baghdad, two steps that counter those who would push Iraq toward a civil war, he said.

"At least 20 of the groups are dialoguing now with the government," he said. "We have to see the results. We have to see the impact of this. We are optimistic."

The Iraqi government is open to proposals from those willing to put their arms aside and find a solution, al-Mahdi said, but government forces will continue to put pressure on insurgents and terrorists.

"The government is stronger than ever," he said. "Our armed forces are getting much better than before in number, in quality, in operations. They are leading operations now."

Al-Mahdi said seventy percent of Iraq is now stable and secure, which makes the Iraqi people "fully optimistic" about their future.

"The Iraqi people think that there is no other issue but victory in Iraq," he said. "The Iraqi people can't leave the country. There is no withdrawal for the Iraqi people. The MNF (Multi-National Force) are supporting Iraqi people and will continue to support and have the sympathy of Iraqis."


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