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Gates says Iraqi political leaders showing signs of progress toward reconciliation

Monday, February 11, 2008

BAGHDAD -- Hard choices face Iraq's political leaders on how to stabilize the country despite promising new signs of progress toward reconciliation, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.

"They seem to have become energized over the last few weeks," Gates said. The Pentagon chief told reporters who traveled with him from a conference in Germany that he wants to "see what the prospects are for further success in the next couple of months."

In an interview on the trip to Iraq, Gates cited the recent passage of an amnesty law as an example of political progress. He said he would ask Iraqi leaders to assess the prospects for other important steps such as passing a law that would spell out power-sharing between the provinces and the national government.

He compared the struggle over that idea to the U.S. founding fathers' quest to find a constitutional compromise on how to share power in Congress between big and small states.

Gates said he would make clear to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other political leaders that "our continued eagerness for them to proceed and successfully conclude some of this legislation" considered essential to reconciling Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

-- The Associated Press

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