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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Maliki Asks for U.S. Weapons

BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi government's need for U.S. troops would "dramatically go down" in three to six months if the United States accelerated the process of equipping and arming Iraq's security forces, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday.

Just hours after Maliki's remarks, at least 17 were killed and 47 wounded in car bombings Thursday in Baghdad as insurgents staged a fresh series of attacks in a bloody week in the Iraqi capital.

The head of Iraq's Shiite-led government defended his country's independence and sovereignty and called on U.S. leaders to show faith in his abilities.

Maliki disputed U.S. President George W. Bush's remarks broadcast Tuesday that the execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein "looked like it was kind of a revenge killing" and took exception to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Senate testimony last week that Maliki's administration was on "borrowed time."

The prime minister said statements such as Rice's "give morale boosts for the terrorists and push them toward making an extra effort and making them believe they have defeated the American administration," Maliki said. "But I can tell you that they have not defeated the Iraqi government."

Speaking through an interpreter to a group of reporters for an hour in his offices in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, Maliki found several ways to say that Iraq is beholden to no country. He defended Iraq's constitutional right to the death penalty, its commitment to dialogue with Iran and Syria despite U.S. opposition to those governments, and its determination to use Iraqi troops to lead the latest effort to pacify Baghdad.

At a time when Bush has committed an additional 21,500 troops to the fight in Iraq, Maliki went further than he had before in establishing a time frame for drawing down the U.S. presence.

"If we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think that within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down. That's on the condition that there are real strong efforts to support our military forces and equipping them and arming them," Maliki said.

In a statement issued by Maliki's office Tuesday, he said Iraq would continue to build up its armed forces "so it will be possible to withdraw the multinational forces from cities, or withdraw 50,000 soldiers from Iraq."

Three bombs in quick succession killed at least 10 people and wounded 30 in a wholesale vegetable market in the violent southern district of Dora on Thursday morning, police said.

"There is no mercy anymore, the people just want to work!" Mohammed Ali Kazim, a vegetable seller in the market, shouted angrily. "They have followed us to this poor place. People here are Sunnis, Shiites and Christians, and they just want to live."

Earlier, a car bomb on Saadoun Street, a commercial thoroughfare in the city center, killed four people and wounded 10. A fifth car bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, killing three and wounding seven.

Maliki faces deep skepticism in Iraq and abroad about whether he has the political will or ability to steer his country away from civil war, or even to keep his job as prime minister.

(WP, Reuters)