Maliki and Rice urge Iraq’s Arab neighbours to do more to help Iraq; US military: 75 per cent of attacks in Baghdad on US soldiers by Iranian-backed groups; Tawafiq bloc to rejoin Maliki cabinet
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  • It the regional conference held in Kuwait on April 22, Prime Minister Maliki and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appealed to Iraq’s neighbours to do more to help in the stabilization of the country. Maliki noted that some western countries had Embassies in Baghdad and that Arab neighbours were citing the security situation as a factor in not following through on their promise of opening diplomatic missions1. Secretary Rice had in a meeting in Bahrain on April 21 also urged Arab countries to pardon Iraq’s outstanding debt of over $65 billion2.

    The US military has meanwhile charged that nearly 75 percent of the attacks carried out by insurgents in Baghdad on US soldiers were perpetrated by Iranian-backed Shiite groups. The new US commander Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin has however affirmed that the Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia continued to be the biggest threat to US forces due to its “potential for highly damaging attacks3.”

    Even as reports noted that the Iraqi government was seeking a dialogue with Moqtada al-Sadr to stem the rising violence and casualties, especially in Sadr City, Sadr on his part called on his followers not to indulge in violence and instead focus their attention on pushing out the ‘occupation forces4.’ The largest Sunni political grouping, the Tawafiq announced during the week that it had agreed to return to the cabinet of Mr. Maliki, citing the crackdown on the Shiite militias and passage of the Amnesty law in February as positive factors5.

    In other developments, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband visited Baghdad on April 24 and held talks with Prime Minister Maliki and expressed support to his security initiatives. British Defence Secretary Des Browne on his part talking to reporters in London admitted that Iraqi forces in Basra were still not “fully operational,” and that Britain had put on hold the planned withdrawal of 2,500 troops stationed at the Basra airport