Al-Maliki: US priority is to build Iraqi forces

US's new strategy includes security in Baghdad, economic support.

Maliki 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Maliki 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Tuesday that America's new strategy in Iraq aims to speed the rebuilding of his army, increase security in Baghdad and boost economic support for the government. Al-Maliki's comments to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television were aired 33 hours before US President George W. Bush was to give a major speech outlining America's revised strategy in Iraq. Bush was expected to announce an increase of as many as 20,000 additional US troops. Al-Maliki predicted Bush would outline meansures aimed "to speed up the building and arming of Iraqi forces, increasing Baghdad's security in order to stabilize it and supporting the government in the economic field to improve services." "He (Bush) wanted to express his continued commitment to support (the Iraqi government) and his desire to see a victory on terrorism in Baghdad," al-Maliki said. Al-Maliki, who spoke with Bush last week for nearly two hours about a new security plan for the Iraqi capital, also defended the quick execution of Saddam Hussein. He said he rejected a request from US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for a delay of up to two weeks because "We did not want to keep a door open for trouble. We did not want the families of the victims to go out and demonstrate." The execution led to a global outcry after a video appeared on on the Internet that showed Saddam being taunted in his final moments. That clandestine video showed the former leader dropping through the gallows floor as he recited prayers. It ends with his dead body swinging at the end of a rope. The Iraqi government said it has formed a committee to investigate who took the video and leaked it for public distribution, saying one person had been referred to judicial authorities. Another video was released earlier by the government and showed Saddam standing silently on the gallows as hooded men placed the noose around his neck. Al-Maliki said the execution was carried out just four days after it was upheld by the appeals court because "rumors that something might happen made us end the matter. We were worried about strife and we wanted to reassure the families of the martyrs." Al-Maliki said his government feared a deal might be struck to free Saddam. He gave no details. He criticized those who spoke against the execution saying "the noise they made after the execution covered Saddam's crimes." Defending the official video released by the government, he said "there is nothing in the constitution that bans the filming of executions. Even in Europe they bring the families of the victims to watch the execution of those who killed their loved ones." The death penalty is not used in the European Union. "We did not insult him. We filmed him in order to reassure the families. This is concerning the first video. The second one is wrong and we have formed an investigative committee. He (the man who filmed) will be punished," he said. He said Saddam's regime used to charge the families of the victims for the bullets used to kill their loved ones. "The filming was done unwittingly and in a naive way. The person who took the video was harmed by Saddam's crimes. He distributed it to his friends and one of them gave it to television stations," al-Maliki said.