Friday, April 4, 2008

Iraqi Pm Maliki Vows Increased Offensives

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Despite the recent spike in violence in Iraq prompted by government military offensives, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed on Thursday to expand operations in several regions across the country. Facing increased external and internal resistance, however, Maliki seemed to offer a more measured response on Friday. The change in tone came after significant casualties, as well as defections from Iraqi police and military forces during last week's fighting in Basra.

Maliki said during the Thursday news conference: "I expect more crackdowns like [Basra]. We do not negotiate with outlaws." The prime minister was referring to the government's attempt to gain more control over opposition strongholds such as Basra, Kut, Hilla and Sadr City. "The coming days will witness more assaults as people are still in the control of gangs," Maliki said, referring specifically to Shuala, Sadr City and Ameriyya in Baghdad. Like Basra, Shuala and Sadr City are key areas of opposition to the Maliki government and maintain strong loyalties to Moqtada al-Sadr.

On Friday, bruised by unexpected resistance, Maliki used more conciliatory language: "To give space and an opportunity for those who are remorseful and are willing to give up their weapons, all pursuits and raids in all areas will be stopped. Those who take up arms will face the law."


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