Odierno: Iraqi leaders must unite factions

Sept. 30, 2008 at 8:17 AM
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BAGHDAD, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Security improvements in Iraq may be lost if the government doesn't improve delivery of services and work to unite factions, the new U.S top commander says.

The Iraqi government has been "working toward" improving services such as electricity and has made headway in bringing rival political and religious blocs together, but "if they don't do this, the citizens over time will ... potentially start to move against the government," Gen. Ray Odierno told USA Today.

Odierno expressed confidence about reducing U.S. troops levels in Iraq next year, but said he would be cautious "to make sure we don't step backward."

Odierno replaced Gen. David Petraeus as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq earlier in September. Petraeus leads the U.S. Central Command.

"In 2006, (Iraq) was a failed state," Odierno said. "In 2008, it's a fragile state. We've got to move it to a stable state."

His first assessment about further troop reductions could come in early 2009 after a new U.S. president is elected, Odierno said.

"My experience tells me that whoever the new administration is, they will listen to what we have to say," he said. "They will then conduct their own assessment. ... I feel comfortable with that."

Topics: Ray Odierno
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