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Jawad al-Maliki speaks to the press on April 22 (AFP) April 23, 2006 -- Shi'ite Prime Minister-designate Jawad al-Maliki is beginning talks today on forming Iraq's first full-term post-Saddam Hussein government.

The new Iraqi administration might adopt a stricter stance toward the country's militias.

Speaking today, al-Maliki said the new government, and not armed groups, should control the country: "Arms should only be in the hands of the government. There is a law that calls for the merging of militias with the armed forces on the basis that it does not forget its struggle against dictatorship."


Welcoming al-Maliki's nomination, U.S. President George W. Bush also asked him to establish control over the militias.


The militias and escalating sectarian bloodshed have emerged with the insurgency as a major obstacle to security in the country and also to U.S. hopes of withdrawing its 130,000 troops.


Iraqi Deaths


Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said last month that more Iraqis were dying at the hands of the militias than the insurgents. U.S. officers have urged the Iraqi leadership to crack down on militias, but without success.


In early March, Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh said the Shi'ite militias posed no security threat. By mid-April he was admitting the existence of death squads.


Matthew Sherman was an adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 2004 until early this year. During that time, he worked closely with Iraq's Interior Ministry. He told RFE/RL in an interview last month that not only Shi'ite militias pose problems for the country. He said Sunni-based groups and even some non-sectarian parties also have armed wings:


"The Iraqi Communist Party, the National Dialogue Council, have their own militia groups. A lot of the Sunni political parties that you are seeing that are coming on board have their own militia wing," Sherman said.


Sherman said there is no official count of the total number of armed men in all these militias. He said the biggest problem in dealing with militias was the governement's lack of will.


Meanwhile today, violence continues. Six people were killed and two others injured in a mortar bomb attack in front of Iraq's Defense Ministry building.


Police spokesman Maitham Abdul-Razzaq said it was hard to identify the victims, who were disfigured in the explosion. But they were believed to be Defense Ministry employees.

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