Top U.S. official urges political progress in Iraq
ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has said Iraq's leaders need to build on security gains by making more political progress, especially in passing key laws to boost national reconciliation.
With violence sharply down in Iraq, attention has focused on whether the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki can reach an accommodation with former foes.
Negroponte told a news conference in the Kurdish north of Iraq late on Wednesday the U.S. government welcomed what he called a marked improvement in security in the country.
"Now exists the hope there will be a parallel progress in the political area, particularly in terms of achieving the various pieces of national reconciliation legislation on such matters as oil, regional governance and so forth."
The key laws Washington wants passed include measures to reform a law banning former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party holding office, agreeing how to equitably share Iraq's oil wealth and setting a date for provincial elections.
Attacks across Iraq have fallen by 55 percent since the full deployment of 30,000 extra U.S. troops in mid-June that U.S. President George W. Bush sent to the country.
But it is still far from clear whether the leaders of Iraq's Kurdish, Shi'ite and Sunni Arab political parties are any more willing or able to set aside decades of mistrust and take the steps needed for reconciliation.
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