09/11/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Iraqi bishop acknowledges drop in violence, says it is time to educate the population to peace

Mgr Rabban al-Qas, bishop of Ahmadiya, agrees with the Petraeus report with regard to the drop in attacks, especially in Baghdad. A real solution though must come from Iraqis themselves, from educating the people to the values of peace and democracy learnt since 2003.

Ahmadiya (AsiaNews) – “A concrete solution to the Iraqi crisis must come from the people themselves, not from the barrel of the gun,” said Mgr Rabban al-Qas, Chaldean bishop of Ahmadiya, in Kurdistan, speaking a day after the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, began presenting his report to the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees of the US Congress on the impact of the recent surge of US troops in Iraq.

General Petraeus said that most objectives had been met by the troop reinforcement. Progress has been reported in the area of security, and sectarian violence has dropped. However, he acknowledged that the current situation remained unstable, preventing an immediate trop withdrawal.

The general did say though that around 30,000 troops could be drawn down from the current level of 168,000 by the middle of next year.

The Iraqi government welcomed General Petraeus’s report. Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie praised the “enormous sacrifice” made by the United States, predicting a reduced combat role for US troops, adding however that his government opposed any quick pullout.

In Baghdad many residents have noticed a drop in the level of violence, but “not enough to go out without fear.”

From talks with his contacts in the capital, Bishop al-Qas said that suicide attacks have declined in the last few months. In his view, the war has “entered a second phase.”

“Now that some results have been achieved against terrorism, albeit small ones, after Washington changed its attitude towards Iraq, it is also time for Iraqis to change attitudes. We must educated the young to peace and instil the democratic values that have started circulating in the country in the last four years,” he said.

“Now we must open the doors to reconciliation whilst ensuring security.”

General Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are continuing today the presentation of their report to Congress.

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