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Iraq PM Seeks Neighbors’ Diplomatic, Fiscal Help

BY Admin  April 21, 2008 at 12:05 PM EDT

Woman at her Sadr City home; AP photo

“Iraq cannot alone shoulder the debt arising from the
military adventures of (Saddam Hussein’s) regime,” al-Maliki told
reporters Monday as he departed for Kuwait, where he will attend a conference
involving Iraq’s neighbors and world powers. They will discuss ways to help Iraq
secure its borders and improve internal security and stability.

Most of Iraq’s
debt to the Paris Club of affluent creditor nations has been forgiven.
According to the U.S. State Department, much of the remaining $67 billion in
debt is owed to Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Al-Maliki also urged other governments to open diplomatic
missions in Baghdad.
Most countries have been reluctant to do so due to safety concerns.

“I am a bewildered by the position of these nations. Do
they want to support Iraq?
Iraq
has emerged from a crisis and needs to be supported,” al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki’s comments come a day after Kuwait’s foreign minister said the country was
looking to open an embassy in Iraq
for the first time since Saddam Hussein invaded his tiny oil-rich neighbor in
1990.

Also Monday, the Iraqi government repeated its assertion
that it will confront armed militias, vowing not to allow the all-out war
threatened by radial Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. In a statement on Saturday,
al-Sadr vowed “open war until liberation” if the government refused
to end a crackdown on his Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad
and Basra, The
Associated Press reported.

Al-Maliki has threatened to ban al-Sadr’s movement from
political life unless he disbands his militia.

The two sides have fought daily clashes in Baghdad
since the prime minister launched an attack last month against the Mahdi Army
in the southern port city of Basra.
The militiamen have responded by shelling Baghdad’s
U.S.-protected Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and offices of the
Iraqi government.

Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army appears to have stepped up its attacks
since he issued his threat, and U.S.
forces have responded with multiple air strikes from armed drones and Apache
helicopters. Since Saturday, the Americans say they killed at least 34
militiamen in Baghdad, nearly all of them in the
Sadr City neighborhood.

There are fears that the continuing bloodshed in the capital
could lead to the formal scrapping of a unilateral truce al-Sadr called last
August — a move that American officials credit with helping dramatically
reduce violence over the last year.

Maliki’s crackdown has led to Iraq’s
worst fighting in nearly a year, spreading through the south and Shiite parts
of Baghdad.
Although fighting in the south has mainly died down, the Baghdad clashes have continued unabated.

Abbas Ashour Mousa told Reuters that a missile struck his Sadr City
house on Sunday evening killing four people, including his brother, and
wounding seven, including his brother’s wife.

“The missiles are striking from everywhere. This
bombardment is continuous against our houses. We don’t know where these
missiles are coming from. They are coming from everywhere.”