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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Five more American troop deaths announced in Iraq today. The violence continues, as does some confusion about the words timeline and benchmark.

BRAND: Two days ago, the U.S. said Iraq has agreed to timelines for political and security progress. But yesterday, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters that no one's going to impose timelines on his government.

CHADWICK: Today, we called Iraq's national security advisor. He's Dr. Mowaffak al Rubaie.

Dr. MOWAFFAK AL RUBAIE (National security advisor, Iraq): The benchmark has not imposed on us by the United States government. It's been actually agreed between the Iraqi leaders to sort out this in the next few months. There are some issues which have not been sorted out yet between the different parties. We need to sit down and hammer them out and make them a unifying point for the Iraqi people.

CHADWICK: So you're saying there are some political goals that you have set for yourself and you've set a kind of a schedule in order to reach those goals, important constitutional kinds of things?

Dr. AL RUBAIE: Absolutely. And I can tell you that we are working very, very closely with the United States Embassy, with the coalition in this country and I think it's been blown out of proportion. We have a strategic alliance with the United States of America and some people are trying to fish in our muddy water - trying to exaggerate what, or spin out some of this differences.

CHADWICK: When you speak about muddying the waters and things being unclear Dr. al Rubaie, you did have the American ambassador saying there is a timeline, we have agreed with Iraqi leaders. And the next day you had Mr. al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, getting up and saying no one's going to impose a timeline on us. And of course, the key question for this timeline is security and these militias and the attempt to stop the sectarian violence. Is that something that political leaders in Iraq can agree on?

Dr. AL RUBAIE: For the militia - we understand, we recognize that it's a serious problem. There is no way we can build a democratic country with the militia still around. We are fully aware of that. The government of Iraq need to do a lot of brave, unpopular decisions and we are prepared to take these, we are preparing the ground to take these unpopular decisions.

CHADWICK: Is there a timeline for dealing with the militias that you have in mind, or that the government has in mind - some kind of goal that you might set for yourselves?

Dr. AL RUBAIE: Well this is a very difficult problem. We cannot say that we are going to deal with this overnight. We need a comprehensive plan and we do have a comprehensive package for this. Number one is we have started a very detailed political engagement with these militias. Nine out of, if you like, ten of them, have signed an agreement on a blank paper saying that we will disband, we will disarm, we will rehabilitate to normal life. Now the rest are - we're engaging in a political engagement for example, Jaysh Mahdi, we have got a statement from Moqtada al-Sadr saying basically, and renouncing violence, ordering his people to stop doing any illegal acts, stop his people to show any illegal arms in the streets. That was yesterday.

CHADWICK: This is the Mahdi Army that answers to the political leader Moqtada al Sadr?

Dr. AL RUBAIE: That's right. That's right. Now the—this—we are--

CHADWICK: You're saying, Dr. al Rubaie, Dr. al Rubaie, are you saying that the Mahdi Army, yesterday, signed a piece of paper agreeing to disarm?

Dr. AL RUBAIE: Absolutely. While they have—the Mahdi Army leader, that's Moqtada al Sadr, has issued a statement basically ordering his people that it is forbidden to kill coalition, to kill Iraqi's, to kill Sunni's, to kill Shiites, to kill anyone. It's forbidden and you should go and keep your arms indoors. And that we believe is a step forward.

CHADWICK: Has he ever made that statement in the past?

Dr. AL RUBAIE: No he hasn't made that statement in the past.

CHADWICK: Dr. Mowaffak al Rubaie, Iraq's National Security Advisor. Dr. al Rubaie thank you for speaking with us.

Dr. AL RUBAIE: Thank you very much for having me.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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