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Maliki Defends "Benchmarks" Performance
In Exclusive, Fox Scores First Post-Progress Report Interview with PM
07/13/2007 7:41 PM ET
Screenshot from Fox News interview with Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki.
Screenshot from Fox News interview with Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki.
Defending the performance of his government, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki granted an exclusive interview to Fox News today, in an apparent effort to offer counterspin to the "mixed" portrayal of Iraq's progress in an interim report issued by the US government

It was Maliki's first public interview after the release of the report, which was required by Congress to verify Iraq's performance with regards to 18 "benchmarks" listed by Washington as important for reconciliation and reconstruction in Iraq.

Fox’s David MacDougall spoke with the PM Friday, saying that Maliki seemed like “a man under a lot of pressure,” describing the interview as an opportunity for the PM, who grants few interviews, to advance a positive spin on the recent Bush administration report to Congress.

On the positive side, “We now have Anbar back with cooperation of the local tribes,” in the province, the PM said, referring to progress made against al-Qa'ida-affiliated militants in the Western Iraqi province in cooperation with US-allied tribal forces.

Maliki added that “we are in the process of regaining Diyala as well,” referring to US-Iraqi security operations in the restive mixed province northeast of Baghdad.

The prime minister also suggested that Iraq should be evaluated on the delivery of basic services, saying that, “Despite all the difficulties that the ordinary citizens are facing with their basic services, we are working on tat aspect as well,” the PM told Fox.

“We are working on improving the services (and) we are working on improving the economy,” Maliki said.

When Fox’s MacDougall asked the PM about areas in which the US government report found Iraqi progress “unsatisfactory,” such as US demands that Iraq pass oil-sector regulation or roll back militia control of parts of the country, Maliki suggested that this work was still ongoing: “We are practicing our measures against militias on a daily basis,” the prime minister said, adding that he did not believe “at the time being” that Iraq was in need of a law against militias in general.

MacDougall reported that the PM was “advised by his own team” to put his views across in order to blunt some of the criticism his government was encountering in Washington in the wake of the July progress report, which was required by Congress as a condition of allocating funding to the executive branch for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Click here for the video report.

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