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Iraq PM meets US envoy, commits to "timelines"

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, Oct 27 (Reuters) Iraq's prime minister said in a joint statement with the US ambassador his government had "timelines" for the resolution of the country's problems after the two men met following days of diplomatic tension.

"The Iraqi government has made clear the issues that must be resolved, with timelines, to take positive steps forward on behalf of the Iraqi people," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters, reading from a joint statement by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and envoy Zalmay Khalilzad after their meeting.

Maliki earlier this week countered remarks by Khalilzad that the Iraqi government had agreed to meet "benchmarks" for policy action over the next year according to "timelines" agreed with Washington.

He said only that his government had a view of when various political and military developments ought to take place and bristled at suggestions that Khalilzad was saying that Washington was imposing a timetable on him.

The controversy over language and the extent to which Maliki was responding to US impatience with efforts to stop sectarian militias has coloured campaigning for November 7 elections that may cost President George W Bush's Republicans control of Congress.

Some opponents say US troops should be withdrawn quickly as Iraq heads towards civil war with an ineffective government.

The statement appeared aimed at dispelling the impression of mounting friction between Washington and its Iraqi allies: "We are pleased to meet today to discuss our ongoing efforts to bring peace and security to Iraq and create a better future for all Iraqis. Iraq and the United States are committed to working together to respond to the needs of the people," the prime minister and the ambassador said in the document.

"The United States fully supports their (the Iraqi government's) goals and will help make them a success," they went on.

"SUPPORT WELCOME" Bush this week said he would go on backing Maliki "as long as he continues to take tough decisions".

Maliki responded by saying he needed more weaponry and freedom of manoeuvre for the Iraqi security forces in order to take those "tough decisions".

"While we recognise the difficulties, we know that our continued strong partnership will allow us to meet the challenges facing Iraq," the today's statement said.

"The United States will continue to stand by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi government welcomes the support of the United States as it moves forward with plans for national reconciliation and the strengthening of the Iraqi security forces.

"The government of Iraq is committed to work toward good and strong relations with the US government to work together toward a democratic, stable Iraq and to confront the terrorist challenge in the light of the strategic alliance between the two countries." REUTERS PB HT2355

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