Iraqi Government Waits for Iraq Study Group Report
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
Iraqi leaders are also awaiting the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group without much hope that they'll bring real change in the chaotic situation in their country. On the eve of the release of the report, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki indicated he's prepared to preempt the expected recommendations with some initiatives of is own.
NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Baghdad.
COREY FLINTOFF: Nouri al-Maliki is in a difficult situation. He has to retain the support of the Bush administration while convincing Iraqis that he is not just a puppet. His meeting with President Bush in Amman last week illustrates the problem. It helped to allay rumors that the U.S. has run out of patience with Maliki and would like to see him replaced. But it also prompted a boycott of parliament by members loyal to the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Maliki, like the Bush administration, has been adamantly opposed to the expected recommendation for an international conference on the Iraq crisis. He said it would be an affront to Iraq's voters and their self-determination if the country's fate were put into the hands of outsiders. Yesterday, though, he appeared to reverse himself.
Prime Minister NOURI AL-MALIKI (Iraq): (Speaking foreign language)
FLINTOFF: Maliki told the news conference that he's already sent envoys to the neighboring Arab capitals to discuss holding a regional conference on ending the violence in Iraq. As an apparent demonstration of his independence, he said that such a conference should be held in Iraq, rejecting a suggestion from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that it would be more effective if it were held outside the war zone. Maliki didn't mention which countries would be engaged or whether the list would include Iran and Syria.
The Iraq Study Group is expected to call for a process that could lead to direct talks between the U.S. and those countries. That's something President Bush has strongly opposed and one recommendation he may not be willing to follow. At his news conference, Maliki also said that he plans to convene a national reconciliation conference later this month in an effort to bring the country's ethnic and political factions together around a common strategy for reverting an all out civil war.
Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Baghdad.