Iraqi prime minister attends UN conference on Iraq's future

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is expected to push for debt relief and demand that some countries cancel debt and war compensation dating back to Saddam Hussein's regime when he addresses a UN conference in Sweden on Thursday. Al-Maliki and several of his Cabinet ministers arrived in Stockholm amid tight security on the eve of the 500-delegate conference that will review the political and security progress in Iraq. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also will attend the meeting, which comes as the US military says violence in Iraq has reached its lowest level in more than four years, following a series of crackdowns on Sunni and Shi'ite extremists. "The aim of this conference is to support Iraq," al-Maliki told reporters in Baghdad before his departure to Sweden. "The task of building is more difficult than countering terrorism. We hope that other countries will forgive Iraqi debts." Iraq harbors at least US$67 billion in foreign debt - most of it owed to fellow Arab countries Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.