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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Iraq PM hits back at US criticism
Nouri Maliki in Syria (21 August 2007)
The Bush administration has called on Mr Maliki's cabinet to perform
Iraq's PM Nouri Maliki has rejected US criticism of his administration, saying "no-one has the right to place timetables" on its performance.

Mr Maliki blamed the US presidential election campaign for many of the "discourteous" comments.

Speaking at the end of a visit to Syria he said Iraq would pay no attention and could "find friends elsewhere".

On Tuesday, US President George W Bush appeared to distance himself for the first time from Mr Maliki's government.

Mr Bush said the people of Iraq had made a great step towards reconciliation.

If the government doesn't respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government
US President George Bush

However he added that there was "a certain level of frustration with the leadership" of Mr Maliki and that his government now had to perform.

"If the government doesn't respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government - that's up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians," he said.

Mr Bush's comments came after the US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, said political progress in Iraq had been "extremely disappointing".

On Monday, the chairman of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, Carl Levin, urged the Iraqi parliament to evict Mr Maliki's government and replace it with one considered less sectarian.

In other news in Iraq:

  • Fourteen US soldiers were killed when a Black Hawk helicopter in which they were travelling crashed in northern Iraq. The military said a mechanical fault was to blame.
  • At least 20 people were killed and 50 injured when a suicide bomber rammed a fuel tanker into a police station in the northern oil city of Baiji.
  • The deputy US commander in Iraq told the BBC that the US has recruited 20,000 civilian volunteers to act as local police in sensitive areas of the country.

'Discourteous'

Speaking after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari in Damascus, Mr Maliki rejected US criticism of his leadership and his administration's performance.

We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere
Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki

"No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people," he said.

"Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria. We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere," he added.


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US troops in action in Iraq



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