By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2006 – Senior U.S. officials in Iraq are calling a four-point plan released yesterday by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to halt sectarian violence "a significant step in the right direction." Maliki's plan, released yesterday, aims at uniting Shiite and Sunni parties to reduce and ultimately stop growing sectarian violence that threatens Iraq.
"This ... shows that the Iraqi leaders want their country to succeed and are responding to the wishes of their people for security," said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, in a statement released yesterday.
"Now begins the hard work of implementing the plan," the U.S. leaders wrote. "We congratulate Prime Minister Maliki and other Iraqi leaders for this important initiative, and assure them of US support."
The four-point plan followed two days of "frank and intense discussions and negotiation," Khalilzad and Casey noted. It calls for:
-- Commissions to be established in every Baghdad district, made up of representatives of every party as well as religious and tribal leaders and security officials to serve as consultants on security matters;
-- A central prosecution commission to coordinate security issues with and monitor the Iraqi police and armed forces;
-- A common new information commission to control the media; and
-- Monthly meetings to evaluate the plan's performance and make adjustments as needed.
"We are doing this to end sectarian violence in Iraq forever," Maliki said last night in announcing the plan on Iraqi television and during a Baghdad news conference.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, traveling in the Middle East, expressed optimism yesterday about Iraq's prospects for peace between its sects, and thanked the Saudi Arabian government for helping the Iraqis find their way toward national reconciliation.
"Iraq has the opportunity to be a unified country, a country that can be a democracy in which Sunni, Shiia, Kurds and others are all fully represented, but it must get past, at this point, a very challenging security environment (with) great violence," Rice said in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during a joint news conference with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.