U.S. envoy to Iraq calls for talks

June 19, 2009 at 10:26 AM
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BAGHDAD, June 19 (UPI) -- There are political solutions to the outstanding issues in Iraq despite a modest rise in the level of sectarian violence, the U.S. envoy to Iraq said.

Iraq has seen a rise in sectarian violence in recent months as U.S. military forces prepare to pull out of cities and villages by June 30 under the provisions of a bilateral security pact.

Christopher Hill, the U.S. envoy to Iraq, said there was no evidence to support claims that insurgent militias were on the rise, adding there was a marked increase in political negotiations to resolve many of the problems facing Iraq.

"We work very hard to make sure that there is dialogue among the various political interlocutors in the country," he said. "We continue to do what we can to help people get together."

Hill noted there were many challenges ahead in Iraq apart from the June 30 military deadline. Iraq still lacks a national hydrocarbon law governing the oil sector, while a variety of disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and the Baghdad central government undermine work toward political reconciliation.

Top U.S. military commanders earlier this year expressed concern that the level of violence in some cities, notably Mosul, suggested American forces would need to stay on beyond the June 30 date. Hill, however, stuck to the deadline, saying that despite ethnic violence in the north, political solutions, not military forces, were needed.

"I think the way forward is through political dialogue," he said.

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