By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
May 9, 2007 – After meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders in Baghdad today, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said he noticed "a greater sense of urgency now than I'd seen previously" on the part of those leaders to meet their obligations toward continuing the country's progress. Cheney stopped in Baghdad for a previously unannounced visit to kick off a weeklong tour of the Middle East that will also include stops in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
In his meetings with Iraqi leaders, Cheney emphasized the importance of making progress not only on security issues, but also on the political issues pending before the Iraqi government, he said.
"I think they recognize that it's in their interest as well as in our interest that they make progress on the political front just as we deal with the security issues," Cheney said.
The Iraqi leaders believe progress is being made, he said.
"I can say that, based on the conversations I've had today -- and most of those conversations were with Iraqis and Iraqi leaders, some of them in the government, some of them not -- that they believe the situation has gotten better," Cheney said.
Specifically, he added, the Iraqi leaders noted that sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites "has curtailed very dramatically."
Still, the vice president said, Iraq's leaders know much remains to be done.
"I think everybody recognizes there still are serious security problems, security threats -- no question about it," he said. "But the impression I got from talking with them -- and this includes their military as well as political leadership -- is that they do believe we are making progress, but we've got a long way to go."
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters that Iraq's civilian and military leaders know what they're up against and are committed to the task at hand.
"I think one of the interesting messages that the vice president heard today from the Iraqi leaders and from the Iraqi military leadership in particular was their absolute determination to carry forward in the face of very significant terrorist activity," the general said.
All the Iraqi leaders who met with Cheney today noted the turnaround in Iraq's Anbar province, where citizens previously aligned with enemy fighters now are helping to rid the province of terrorists, Petraeus said.
"All of them actually singled out Anbar province and the really dramatic shift in the Sunni population in Anbar province against al Qaeda Iraq in recent months as a heartening sign and actually as an example that they are encouraging be followed in other areas with similar populations," he said.
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