WASHINGTON -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says his country is experiencing an economic recovery despite reports of violence and terrorism, which, according to the United Nations, has left 7,000 Iraqis dead this year.
Maliki made the comments in a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace
(USIP) in Washington.
The Iraqi leader said that his country needs military aid and help with intelligence to fight the terrorist threat it faces.
Maliki is expected to call for U.S. military help in his meeting on November 1 with President Barack Obama. He said to a packed audience at the USIP that the main objective of his visit was to strengthen U.S.-Iraqi ties and to revitalize the two countries' relationship.
Maliki said the terrorist network Al-Qaeda had failed in its attempts to create "the Islamic State of Iraq."
He said his country would have defeated Al-Qaeda completely had the situation not deteriorated in Libya and Syria, which he said gave terrorism "a second chance."
Maliki described Al-Qaeda and terrorism as a "virus" that will expand and spread if it "is not dealt with."
"Al Qaeda is a wind that carries dirt and wants to spread it to countries around the world and we want to carry flowers to spread it to people around the world for peace and coexistence," he added.
Earlier this week, a group of bipartisan senators criticized Maliki in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, blaming his government's actions for Iraq’s rising violence.
The senators accused Maliki of pursuing a "sectarian and authoritarian agenda," which, they said, had resulted in the strengthening of Al-Qaeda and the fueling of violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.
In his speech, Maliki said that one of the achievements of his government was to reunite Iraqis. He said, “There is no problem between Sunnis and Shi'ites.”
Maliki said that his country needed more time to build its political system and democracy.
During a question–and-answer session that followed the speech, Maliki said he would seek a third term, if the Iraqi people wanted him to stay in power.
"It is up to the will of the people," he said while adding that it was a "very difficult job."
During his three-day trip to Washington, Maliki and his delegation are meeting with senior U.S. officials.
On October 30, Maliki reportedly met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.