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Obama congratulates Iraq on new government

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:31 am

WASHINGTON, Dec 21, 2010 (AFP) – US President Barack Obama Tuesday congratulated Iraq after parliament endorsed a new government, saying the move was a “significant” historic moment and represented a rejection of extremism.

“Today’s vote in the Council of Representatives is a significant moment in Iraq’s history and a major step forward in advancing national unity,” Obama said in a written statement.

“I congratulate Iraq’s political leaders, the members of the Council of Representatives, and the Iraqi people on the formation of a new government of national partnership.”

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki personally by telephone to offer their congratulations, the White House said.

Iraqi former prime minister and now member of Parliament and head of the Iraqiya bloc Iyad Allawi (R) and former Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, now member of Parliament and of the National alliance, walk together on December 21, 2010. AFP

The president said that the Iraqi people and elected representatives had shown, with the long-delayed move after elections in March, that they were committed to democratic means to ease differences and shape Iraq’s future.

“Their decision to form an inclusive partnership government is a clear rejection of the efforts by extremists to spur sectarian division,” he said.

“Iraq faces important challenges, but the Iraqi people can also seize a future of opportunity.

“The United States will continue to strengthen our long-term partnership with Iraq’s people and leaders as they build a prosperous and peaceful nation that is fully integrated into the region and international community.”

Obama, who rose to power after he opposed the then unpopular Iraq war, has presided over the end of US combat operations in the country, and all American forces are due to be withdrawn by the end of next year.

He tasked Biden with monitoring the US withdrawal and his number two has invested substantial time in persuading various factions in the country to move towards a coalition agreement.

Biden said in his own statement that Iraq’s leaders had delivered what their people deserved and expected — “an inclusive, national partnership government that reflects the results of Iraq’s elections.”

“There are many challenges ahead, but I am convinced Iraq is up to them,” Biden said.

Nearly 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq, seven years after the US invasion to topple ex-leader Saddam Hussein, mostly engaged in training and advising Iraqi security forces.

Iraq’s parliament earlier gave Maliki’s government a vote of confidence and adopted a 43-point program aimed at liberalizing the economy and fighting terrorism.

After more than nine months of political wrangling, parliament in separate votes gave its approval to Maliki, three deputy prime ministers and 29 other cabinet ministers, as well as the government program.

The results of the March 7 polls were generally split along sectarian lines, with Shiites mainly supporting Maliki’s State of Law and the National Alliance, and Sunnis mostly voting for ex-premier Iyad Allawi’s secular Iraqiya.

Neither Maliki nor Allawi was able to muster the majority needed to form a government, despite back-door negotiations with various Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs that also picked up seats, leading to more than nine months of political deadlock.

But a power-sharing pact was agreed on November 10 which saw Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, reappointed as president and Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab, named as speaker of parliament.

Source: SGGP

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