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Al-Maliki Defends Government, Urges Regional Support --> Iraqi Premier al-Maliki (file photo) (AFP) September 9, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today defended his government's record, saying it has made progress "in all directions" in an address at a regional security conference in Baghdad that seeks to end the bloodshed in Iraq.

Al-Maliki also urged neighboring countries to work together to stop what he called "evil" from destabilizing the region.

Twenty-two nations sent delegations to the conference, including Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.A meeting of the countries neighboring Iraq -- including Syria and Iran -- is being held in Baghdad.

Broad Agenda

Foreign ministers or their appointees are there along with envoys from the UN Security Council.
The agenda includes the large number of refugees and displaced people, energy problems, and security issues such as border controls.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki opened the conference and said his country is doing everything it can to improve the situation in the country.

"We say that our steps on security, the economy, and service fields are still ongoing, but they are promising and firm moves," he said. "Because these moves are based on a real concern that we carry to develop our country and invest its resources according to its abilities, providing service to its citizens, and support for regional stability and security."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stressed that the better security is not achievable without reconciliation inside the country and good relations with neighbors.

Seeking Reconciliation

"As Iraq is in need of an internal national reconciliation, [Iraq] also needs to reconcile with its neighbors and with the world," he said. "Our dialogue and reconciliation initiative has moved Iraq to an advanced position in undertaking its national responsibilities and building its pioneering experience that offers a hand for all and especially for Iraq's neighbors."

Zebari said the conference is essential to reduce regional tension and provide an opportunity for dialogue between Iraq's neighbors -- especially Iran and Syria -- and the United States.

Iran, in particular, has been repeatedly accused by the United States of fomenting violence in Iraq through the funding, training, and arming of Shi'ite militias. Syria is also accused of failing to stop foreign fighters from crossing their borders into Iraq.

(RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq contributed to this report.)

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