Iraq: Help wanted, not interference

Turkey has offered to hold a follow-up meeting to the Baghdad conference in April.

    Suicide bombers attacked army checkpoints in Baghdad as delegates discussed security [AFP]
    "The meeting was constructive and positive in fact in its atmosphere and the composition," Hoshiyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, said adding that committees had been set up for security, refugees, fuel and power.
    Troop request
    Meanwhile, on Saturday, George Bush, the US President, ordered 4,400 more troops into Iraq on top of a force build-up he has already authorised 
    as Iran called for the withdrawal of all US forces on grounds they fuelled violence.
    In a letter to Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives speaker, Bush formally requested about $3.2bn to pay for the additional deployment. 
    This revised an earlier request for $100bn to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Bush said in the letter: "This revised request would better align resources based on the assessment of military commanders to achieve the goal of establishing Iraq and Afghanistan as democratic and secure nations that are free of terrorism."

    It was signed by the president on Friday night and released on Saturday during his tour of Latin America.
    'Moral responsibility'
    After talks between senior officials at the Baghdad conference, the United States said Turkey had offered to host a planned follow-up ministerial-level conference in April and that Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, would attend the meeting.


    Shortly after talks began on Saturday, two mortar bombs exploded near the conference building. Elsewhere in the capital, a suicide car bomber killed six Iraqi soldiers and wounded about 20 in yet another day of violence.

    Al-Maliki said that Iraq needed the support of its neighbours and the world in stopping the sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims, which he said could spill over to other countries in the region.

    "We call on all to take moral responsibility by adopting a strong and clear stance against terrorism in Iraq and co-operate in stamping out forces of terror," al-Maliki said.

    He demanded that "regional or international states refrain from interfering or influencing Iraq's state of affairs through supporting a certain sect, ethnic group or party".

    "Confronting terrorism means halting any form of financial support and media or religious backing, as well as logistical support and the flow of arms and men who transform themselves into bombs that kill our children, women and elders, and destroy our mosques and churches."

    Security committee

    The 16 nations at the long-awaited conference agreed to establish a committee to look at security co-operation, as well as two others focusing on Iraqi refugees and energy issues.

    Zebari described the meeting "constructive and positive" and said Iraq and its neighbours had decided to hold another mid-level in Turkey next month.

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    The delegates, however, failed to agree on a date and venue for a follow-up conference at a higher, ministerial level.

    "What the conference achieved was exploration and preparation, explorations of the different positions of people attending this conference and preparation for the upcoming conference in Istanbul," Jasim Azawi, the presenter of Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq programme, said.

    Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, urged Iraq's neighbours to do more to stop the flow of fighters, weapons and sectarian propaganda contributing to the violence, saying the future of Iraq and the Middle East was the defining issue of the moment.
    "No country represented at the table would benefit from a disintegrated Iraq; indeed, all would suffer badly," he said.

    He said he hoped their presence indicated they were "ready to take concrete, constructive actions" to support Baghdad.

    Iran urges US withdrawal

    Iran's envoy to to the talks rejected allegations that his country was fomenting violence in Iraq and blamed the fighting on the presence of  US forces.

    16 nations were represented at the security
    conference in Baghdad [AFP]

    "It will help resolve the problem of violence if they set a timetable for withdrawal of their troops from Iraq," Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, said.

    "Tehran stands ready to help bring peace and stability to Iraq."

    Iraq's security problems were highlighted when mortar rounds exploded just metres away from the foreign ministry where the talks were taking place.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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