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Old 05-24-2008, 08:16 PM
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Default Al Qaeda in Iraq "never closer to defeat": U.S. envoy

Al Qaeda in Iraq "never closer to defeat": U.S. envoy

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq praised Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday for cracking down on Shi'ite militias and Sunni Arab militants and said al Qaeda in Iraq had never been closer to defeat.

"You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda is defeated, but they've never been closer to defeat than they are now," Ryan Crocker told reporters during a visit to the Shi'ite holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala in southern Iraq.

Maliki, a Shi'ite, has led a crackdown on Sunni Arab militants in the northern city of Mosul, where the government says al Qaeda fighters took refuge after being driven from other areas.

Maliki has also confronted Shi'ite militias in Baghdad's Sadr City slum and in the southern city of Basra.

Crocker said it was important that Iraqi forces were leading operations in Basra and Mosul -- where U.S.-led coalition forces played a supporting role -- and acting alone in Sadr City.

"That's a level of capability that simply wasn't possible even six months ago," he said.

"The government, the prime minister are showing a clear determination to take on extremist armed elements that challenge the authority of the government and they've made it clear that they will do that no matter who these elements are," he said.

Iraqi security forces initially met strong resistance in Basra and Sadr City from the Mehdi Army militia of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, but are now patrolling both areas.

Crocker opened two new bases for U.S.-led reconstruction teams near Najaf and near Kerbala that will work with local officials on developing infrastructure and the economy.
A touch of good news...It's been happening all along but rarely heard...
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