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Iraq''s Deputy PM says next three months crucial for country''s stability

By Heather Yamour WASHINGTON, May 10 (KUNA) -- Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said on Thursday the next three months would be "very crucial" for the future and stability of his country.
In an exclusive interview with KUNA, Salih, who is on an official visit to Washington, spelled out several "ambitious" factors that would define failure or success of Iraq, but reiterated that his government and the people of Iraq would accept nothing short of "success".
He said factors that would define the future shape of Iraq included the outcome of the Sharm El-Sheikh Iraq compact group conference, which brought top officials of Iraq's neighbors and other powerful nations to the table, as well as the on-going political reconciliation taking place in Baghdad to bring back the Sunni community to the government's decision-making process.
Other factors, he said, were the results of US President George Bush's surge plan, the pressure on the administration to pull troops out of Iraq, and political and economic reforms in Iraq.
"We are faced with serious challenges but we have no option but to succeed, " Salih said.
His remarks come as Democrats in control of Congress are applying more pressure on the Administration to outline an exit strategy while demanding the Iraqi government take more responsibility.
Salih, describing the outcome of the Sharm El-Sheikh conference as an "ambitious plan", said the results would help Iraqi leaders endorse political and economic reforms aimed at improving the security of Iraq, both politically and economically. "The entire international community is looking at Iraq with keen interest," he said.
A statement issued after the Sharm El-Sheikh conference pledged that countries neighboring Iraq would double their efforts to help the Iraqi government enforce security in the face of growing violence, as well as helping Iraq economically.
It is, he said, a "comprehensive blued print for democratic federal system of government in Iraq." Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, under international pressure to broaden political participation, has launched a fresh effort aimed at bringing the Sunnis -- many of whom have boycotted the government in protest at what they called unequal authorities given to the different Iraqi communities -- to rejoin the government with the aim of establishing a solid political ground to defeat growing sectarian violence.
Salih expressed optimism at the government's reconciliation efforts, saying it did not include the Sunnis rejoining the government only, but rather extended to reach new laws tackling debaathification and the oil law that would ensure oil revenues were distributed equally.
"There are on-going talks across the political divide on a variety of legislation," which include reforms for debaathification, disarmament, and demobilizations of militias and the oil law, Salih said. However, he called on Iraq's neighboring countries to help his country in its fight to defeat "terrorism" in Iraq, sending a clear warning that Al-Qaeda and terrorist attacks would spread to the region.
"It is a serious threat," he said. "Al-Qaeda is a threat not only to Iraq but to the entire international community, a stable democratic Iraq should not only be an interest for the Iraqi people, but for the neighbors of Iraq.
"Continued instability will have profound repercussions in the region. Those who think instability will remain in Iraq's borders are wrong," Salih warned.
Salih is in Washington for talks with top officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on such crucial issues that are seen as crucial to the future of Iraq.
His visit comes the same time US Vice President Dick Cheney is visiting Baghdad, where he reportedly urged the government of Maliki to act more seriously in the war-torn country, both politically as well as preparing Iraqi security forces to be ready to defend their country. (end) hy.ema KUNA 100914 May 07NNNN