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US support in Iraq needed only ‘a few more years’: diplomat

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AFP: US financial support for Iraq will be needed for only a “few more years” until Iraq can tap its vast oil wealth and stand on its own feet, the departing US ambassador to Baghdad said Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US financial support for Iraq will be needed for only a “few more years” until Iraq can tap its vast oil wealth and stand on its own feet, the departing US ambassador to Baghdad said Tuesday.

“We’re not talking… about an open-ended commitment that will go on and on for 30 more years,” Christopher Hill told reporters after arriving in Washington to begin his retirement from the diplomatic service.

Despite deadly bombings and a long stalemate over attempts to form a new government after March elections, most Iraqis want to use the political process to resolve their differences, Hill said.

And he played down the latest crisis after the winner of Iraq’s general election, Iyad Allawi, broke off coalition talks with his main rival, incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, for the top job following a spat on Monday.

“I would just caution people that… things that are impossible become possible; things that are possible become impossible,” he said.

He also said Iraqis often resort to brinksmanship.

“Iraqis often take things to the brink, where you are not really sure what room for maneuver there is except to jump into an abyss, and yet they find a solution,” Hill said.

The close election in March has put a strain on the democratic institutions and tested the new constitution, he said.

“And yet I think there is… an understanding of the rule of law and the fact that solutions need to be found that are found within this constitution,” Hill said.

“I think Iraq is increasingly stable,” he said, adding he was the first US ambassador to be able to visit all of the country’s provinces.

The security problems do not have “broad political significance” even if they have “terrible significance” for the people affected by them, he said.

He also said Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a weakened force that lacks popular support, has “great difficulty” communicating both inside and outside the country, faces funding problems, and is hit by both US and Iraqi forces.

Iraq is headed in the right direction, and will not need three more decades of US support, he said.

“I mean, we’re talking about a few years during which the Iraqis will get this oil potential up and running and will not require assistance from us,” Hill said.

But he said Iraq still needs US financial and political support as US military forces draw down this year and next.

“It’s going to take a few more years, at the end of which we will have done the job and we will not have to be funding Iraq projects for… the rest of history,” Hill said.

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