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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 August 2007, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Maliki returns fire at US critics
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki
Nouri Maliki said the US politicians should "come to their senses"
Iraq's prime minister has hit back at senior US politicians who have called for him to be removed from office.

Nouri Maliki singled out senators Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin.

He said the Democratic senators were acting as if Iraq was "their property" and that they should "come to their senses" and "respect democracy".

Analysts say Mr Maliki is fighting to hold his government together. His words come days before a report to Congress on the US Iraq "surge" strategy.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, in Baghdad, says the already heated political situation inside and outside Iraq has now got even hotter.

Leaders like Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin have not experienced in their political lives the kind of differences we have in Iraq
PM Nouri Maliki

Mr Maliki has just taken part in several meetings with other political leaders in Iraq.

Afterwards, he indicated that Sunni Vice-President Tariq al Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party was about to join forces with the four Shia and Kurdish parties who recently established a new moderate alliance, with a joint statement imminent.

The almost total Sunni Arab withdrawal from and boycott of the cabinet at present has been at the centre of the embattled prime minister's difficulties, our correspondent says.

But senior Iraqi Islamic Party member Omar Abdul Sattar later told the BBC Mr Maliki had no right to speak on behalf of the party and there were no plans to join the new alliance.


Earlier this month, Senators Clinton and Levin both urged Iraqi politicians to choose someone else to lead Iraq's ruling coalition and seek faster national reconciliation.

US soldiers on patrol in Iraq
A report about the military "surge" in Iraq is due in September

"I share Senator Levin's hope that the Iraqi parliament will replace Prime Minister Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks," Sen Clinton said in a statement on 22 August.

But the Iraqi prime minister hit back during a news conference in Baghdad, saying: "Leaders like Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin have not experienced in their political lives the kind of differences we have in Iraq.

"When they give their judgment they have no knowledge of what reconciliation means."

He also rebuffed French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner who, in an interview with a US news magazine, apparently also suggested Mr Maliki step down.

"... we were surprised that the minister made a statement which can't be called in any way diplomacy, when he called for replacing the government," Mr Maliki said.

The introduction of some 30,000 US troops - the "surge" strategy - was supposed to buy time for the Iraqi government to make political progress.

But, our correspondents say, far from making progress, Mr Maliki's government is visibly falling apart.

US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US ambassador Ryan Crocker are soon expected to report to the US Congress on progress in Iraq since the surge began.

Mr Maliki said a negative report by Gen Petraeus would not cause him to change course, but he expected the general to "be supportive of the government".

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