US reports drop in violence, increase in security in Iraq

June 14th, 2008 - 1:45 am ICT by IANS  

New York, June 13 (DPA) The US Friday said that incidents of violence in Iraq have dropped to the lowest levels in the last four years as the government increasingly assumes and expands its security responsibilities. In his report to the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the 15-nation council that there were no confirmed ethno-sectarian deaths in Baghdad last month compared with the more than 1,600 such deaths in December, 2006.

The number of civilian deaths throughout Iraq have dropped by 75 percent since July 2007 and monthly attacks and car bombings decreased in May this year, falling below the levels of 2006 and 2007. He said suicide bombings increased from October, 2007, to February, 2008, but declined in March and April this year.

The US is leading a 40-nation multinational forces in Iraq, which were authorised by the council to fight insurgency there.

“The struggle for the future of Iraq is vital for it will shape the future of the Middle East,” Khalilzad said. “We have seen that tremendous progress had been made … but the people of Iraq still have a long way to go.”

He urged Iraq’s neighbours to lend support to Baghdad in achieving its goals of ending the conflict, which started after US troops invaded the country in March, 2003.

The multinational force is composed mostly of about 150,000 US military personnel. Its 12-month UN mandate in Iraq is up for renewal by the council in December unless Baghdad decides to terminate that mandate before its expiration.

The US and Iraq are in fragile talks over a status-of-forces agreement that could replace the UN mandate and allow US troops to remain to help guarantee security.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Friday in Jordan that talks had reached a “dead end” over an agreement on the status of US troops in the country from Dec 31.

“Talks with the American side have reached a dead end because Iraq has found that American demands extremely violate our country’s sovereignty and thus they are unacceptable,” al-Maliki told reporters in Amman.

Al-Maliki said that his government was especially opposed to Washington’s insistence on ensuring the “immunity of US troops to trial in Iraq” and allowing them to conduct operations without prior coordination with the Iraqi authorities.

Over the past two weeks, US officials have sought to allay Iraqi objections, insisting that Washington is not seeking permanent bases and that the deal would guarantee absolute Iraqi sovereignty.

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