Maliki: Don't Withdraw U.S. Troops Too Quickly The war in Iraq is a key part of the war on terrorism, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a joint session of Congress Wednesday. Maliki thanked the United States for removing Saddam Hussein -- and urged that U.S. troops not leave before Iraq is stable.
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Maliki: Don't Withdraw U.S. Troops Too Quickly

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Maliki: Don't Withdraw U.S. Troops Too Quickly

Maliki: Don't Withdraw U.S. Troops Too Quickly

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The fate of our country and yours is tied.

Those words today from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri alMaliki, addressing a joint session of Congress. Maliki said the war in Iraq is a key part of the war on terrorism and he thanked the U.S. for removing Saddam Hussein. He did not mention the current fighting in Lebanon and his disagreement with President Bush on that issue. The Iraqi leader was interrupted once by a heckler, who was quickly escorted from the House gallery. We'll hear reaction to his speech from members of Congress in a few minutes.

First, here's NPR's David Greene.

DAVID GREENE: Congress invites a few world leaders to speak each year, but few whose fate is so intertwined with U.S. policy and politics. That thought was on everyone's mind as House Speaker Dennis Hastert introduced today's guest.

DENNIS HASTERT: Members of Congress, it's my privilege, great privilege, and I deem it a high honor and personal pleasure to present to you His Excellency, Nouri alMaliki, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq.

GREENE: Maliki stood facing a sea of senators and House members. Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney sat behind him, listening to a translator interpreting his Arabic. And right from the start, his message echoed what members of Congress are used to hearing from President Bush.

NOURI ALMALIKI: (Through translator) I know that some of you here question whether Iraq is part of the war on terror. Let me be very clear. This is a battle between true Islam, for which a person's liberty and drives constitute essential cornerstones, and terrorism, which wraps itself in a fake Islamic cloak, in reality wages a war on Islam and Muslims.

GREENE: Maliki used the terms terrorist and terrorism often and he connected the fight in his own country to what happened in the U.S. on September 11, 2001.

ALMALIKI: (Through translator) Thousands of lives were tragically lost on September 11, when these imposters of Islam reared their ugly heads. Thousands more continue to die in Iraq today at the hands of the same terrorists who show complete disregard for human life.

GREENE: But in a White House briefing yesterday, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the current problem in Baghdad is not terrorism, but warfare between sectarian factions of Iraqis. In his speech today, Maliki mentioned these armed militias only once.

ALMALIKI: (Through translator) I have on many occasions stated my determination to disband all militias, without exception.

GREENE: Near the end of his 27minute speech, Maliki reminded Congress that Iraqi Shiites such as himself rose up against Saddam Hussein before, in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.

ALMALIKI: (Through translator) In 1991, when Iraqis tried to capitalize on the regime's momentary weakness and rose up, we were alone again. The people of Iraq will not forget your continued support as we establish a secure, liberal democracy. Let 1991 never be repeated, for history will be most unforgiving.

GREENE: He did not mention that it was the first President Bush who made the decision in 1991 not to topple Saddam as the Shiites had hoped. More recently, of course, the current President Bush has removed Hussein and the U.S. government has committed several hundred billion dollars to its mission in Iraq. Today Maliki said that much of that money has gone not to rebuilding, but to security, and that Congress needed to commit new funds to rebuilding Iraq.

David Greene, NPR News, the White House.

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