Gulf & Middle East
Gates 'moderately optimistic' about war in Iraq
Apr 21, 2007 - 10:19:06 AM

Baghdad, April 21 - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said he is 'moderately optimistic' about the war in Iraq, but stressed significant challenges lie ahead in trying to secure the country, Iraqi media reported.

Gates Friday said the US and Iraq would see 'steady progress' in combating sectarian violence, but 'there probably will be tough days to come,' independent Voices of Iraq news agency reported.

The US troop surge aimed at securing Baghdad and other volatile areas of the country will continue at least until late summer, Gates said.

'We need some time for things to work,' Gates, who arrived to Iraq Thursday for an unannounced visit, told a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad.

Gates rejected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's assessment that the war was already lost and that the troop build-up was not stemming violence in Iraq.

'I informed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki - is committed to Baghdad's security plan,' Gates said.

He said he held a meeting with his commanders to review the Baghdad's security plan, adding the evaluation of the plan would not be completed before the end of this summer.

'Our commitment to Iraq is long-term, but it's not a commitment to having our young men and women patrolling Iraq's streets open-endedly,' Gates told the press conference.

Gates urged the Iraqis to push forward with the ongoing Shia- Sunni reconciliation process and to pass key legislation to settle disputes over control of the country's vast oil fields and revenue.

Iraqi oil fields are located in the southern and northern parts of Iraq where mostly Shias and Kurds live. Sunnis have expressed fears that they may be deprived of their rights to oil revenues.

Gates said passing the legislation would not end the violence that has plagued the country but would show that both sides can work together to address Iraq's challenges.

'It's not that these laws are going to change the situation immediately, but ... the ability to get them done communicates a willingness to work together,' Gates said.

US President George W. Bush ordered thousands more US troops to Baghdad to quell sectarian violence and terrorist attacks along with the revised security plan by the Iraqi government.

Bombings, however, continued, with more than 200 Iraqis killed since Wednesday in some of the deadliest attacks since US-led forces toppled Saddam's regime in April 2003.

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