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Iraqi Minister Reacts to Mosque Bombing, Other Violence

A key Shia mosque was bombed for the second time in Samarra, while a new Pentagon report revealed that violence across Iraq has increased since the U.S. troop surge. An Iraqi official and a reporter discuss the events.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    It's been a tough week for the Iraqi government. Two top American officials — Mideast commander Admiral Jack Fallon and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte — traveled to Baghdad earlier this week to press Iraqi leaders for quicker action on political reforms. Those promised legislative changes are designed to promote national unity among Iraq's warring sects.

    Then yesterday, a revered Shia mosque in Samarra was bombed for the second time in 16 months. Last year's attack there triggered an intensified level of sectarian violence. And a new Pentagon report this week said violence across Iraq has actually increased since the new U.S. strategy to pacify Baghdad began putting more U.S. troops into the capital and other strategic locations.

    For an Iraqi government view of these developments, we're joined by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. He's at the United Nations, taking part in a review of the U.N. Security Council mandate in Iraq. U.S. and other troops operate in Iraq under that mandate. The foreign minister is coming to Washington next week to confer with administration officials.

    And, Mr. Minister, welcome back to the program.

  • HOSHYAR ZEBARI, Iraqi Foreign Minister:

    Thank you, Margaret.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    When we spoke at this time last year, you said that the then-new Iraqi government had about six months to demonstrate that it could and would tamp down sectarian violence. That has not happened; it has not succeeded. Why not?

  • HOSHYAR ZEBARI:

    Well, it hasn't happened mainly because of the efforts of our enemies and adversaries, that they are doing everything to ignite sectarian strife and convulsion throughout the country. But the situation is not, again, as hopeless as people see it, really, from a distance.

    I mean, look at the bombing yesterday of the remaining of this holy site in Samarra. Many people anticipated there would be a wave of sectarian killing and outrage, but it hasn't happened today, according to my contacts with my colleagues in the government and the ministry. The situation seems to be under some control.

    So, really, not everything one hoped to see we'll be able to achieve because there are those who are working against this democratic experiment, against this government, to derail our plans, to derail the plans of our allies in the multinational forces, and it's a battle. It's an uphill battle between those who believe in the new Iraq and those who want to destroy this country.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And when you speak of enemies and adversaries, are you referring to people inside Iraq or also some of Iraq's neighbors?

  • HOSHYAR ZEBARI:

    No, definitely those terrorist groups, al-Qaida and the like, who are inside Iraq, and definitely our neighbors also have not been very helpful. Many of our problems or difficulties are coming across the border.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    You mean, both from Syria and Iran?

  • HOSHYAR ZEBARI:

    Yes, you can say that, but from other countries, as well, really, not only these two.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Such as?

  • HOSHYAR ZEBARI:

    Well, we get many foreign fighters from different countries in the Gulf, from countries as far as North Africa, Morocco, from the expatriate communities in Europe, and so on. These are the suicide bombers who draw themselves up among ordinary Iraqi people and civilians, or in public markets, you see at schools and universities. So they have a responsibility, also, you see, to help prevent that from happening.

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