(AFP) – Apr 24, 2008
BAGHDAD (AFP) — Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Thursday that the mentality of forming rival militias in Iraq was over, the premier's office said in a statement.
Maliki told Miliband, on a surprise visit to Baghdad, that "national reconciliation has been a success and all political parties will return to government.
"The ideology of having rival militias is over. The weapon is now in state hands," the statement said that Maliki told Miliband during their talks.
Many Iraqi political groups have their own private armies, and clashes between rival groups have caused massive bloodshed across the country.
Last month Maliki ordered a crackdown on Shiite militiamen, mostly from the Mahdi Army of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in the southern city of Basra. Hundreds of people were killed in the ensuing violence.
"We have political support from all entities for the measures taken by the government," the statement quoted Maliki as telling Miliband on Thursday.
Basra, which until December was under British military control, became the setting for turf wars between rival Shiite political parties battling for control of the oil-rich province.
"The situation in Basra is stable and we have solutions for other regions such as Mosul and Baghdad. The government is going after the outlaws," Maliki said. "The decision has been taken to confront challenges strongly."
Miliband affirmed Britain's support to Iraq: "We are focusing on cooperating with Iraq to develop projects in the south," he said, according to the statement which was issued in Arabic.
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