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Iraqi PM To Meet Obama At The White House

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaking in Washington D.C. on October 31.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaking in Washington D.C. on October 31.
U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the White House on November 1.

On October 31, Maliki said he was seeking U.S. military aid to fight a resurgent Al-Qaeda in his country.

Speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Maliki blamed the revival of the extremist group on the power vacuum created in the region by the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled long-standing dictatorships.

He described Al-Qaeda as a "dirty wind" that wants to spread worldwide.

Maliki said that his country needs military aid and help with intelligence to fight the terrorist threat it faces.

The UN says more than 7,000 people have been killed in sectarian and other attacks in Iraq this year -- and October was Iraq's deadliest month since April 2008.

On November 1, figures compiled by the Iraqi ministries of health, the interior, and defense showed that 964 people were killed last month -- 855 civilians, 65 police, and 44 soldiers. A further 1,600 were wounded. The figures also showed that 33 militants were killed and 167 arrested.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of senators criticized Maliki in a letter to Obama, blaming his government's actions, in part, for Iraq's rising violence.

The senators accused Maliki of pursuing a "sectarian and authoritarian agenda," which, they said, had strengthened Al-Qaeda and fueled violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.

But in his speech, Maliki claimed his government had united Iraqis.

"The best achievement that we were able to accomplish was to reunite Iraqis," he said. "We started again work based on allegiances to Iraq and not based on any sectarian or religious allegiances. Yes, some people still think like that, but we are on the way to end this kind of thinking, that the Iraqi way of thinking is not Shi'ite, and Sunni, and Kurdish, and Arab. Yes, these are important identities, but it is a tent that encompasses all of these identities and most important is Iraq. I believe this the most important achievement we have accomplished."

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.

Earlier on October 31, Maliki met with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The White House said Maliki also met with Vice President Joe Biden on the same day for a one-on-one meeting that lasted two hours. The White House said talks focused on ways of strengthening bilateral ties.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP