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Iraqi official: Lawmakers cutting short summer recess

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  • Iraqi national security adviser says Iraq will meet expectations of U.S. Congress
  • Iraqi lawmakers cut vacation time to hammer out legislation
  • Iraq must stick with al-Maliki as prime minister, official says
  • Iran still arming insurgents, he says
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq is on target to meet by September key political benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said Sunday.

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Iraq has seen "visible progress" in security, its economy and politics, National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said.

Iraqi lawmakers have cut their planned two-month recess in half and will be working six-day weeks for the rest of this month to try to pass the provisions by September, he said.

Al-Rubaie disputed a report in Sunday's Washington Post that cited senior U.S. officials as saying the Iraqi government "is unlikely to meet any of the political and security goals or timelines President Bush set for it in January when he announced a major shift in U.S. policy."

"I totally disagree with this, and this is totally untrue," al-Rubaie said. "I think we have already seen a visible progress in the economy and security and information as well as political."

"I believe by September, we will be able to report very good progress," al-Rubaie said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Still, Iraqi lawmakers will take the entire month of August off, he said.

The long break has rankled some U.S. officials, who have been pressuring the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to step up reconciliation efforts amid a joint U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify Baghdad and its surrounding provinces.

Speaking later on the same program, Sen. Richard Lugar, said it was "inconceivable" that Iraqi lawmakers would take a month off before a key U.S. military assessment in September.

"Here is a country in the middle of a war, United States troops ... fighting to save Iraqis and some of these parliamentarians ... take a month off," the Indiana Republican told CNN's "Late Edition."

"It makes absolutely no sense."

In September, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is to brief Congress on the progress of operations involving the recent increase of U.S. troops in Iraq -- a building up the Bush administration calls a "surge."

The briefing could determine how long the additional troops would stay.

Congress has called on Iraqi leaders to meet 18 political benchmarks by September, including passing laws that govern the distribution of the country's oil revenues; reforming constitutional provisions that authorized the creation of autonomous federal regions, and allowing former members of executed dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to return to public jobs.

Al-Rubaie stressed that Iraq shares those goals.

"These are not Washington benchmarks, these are Iraqi benchmarks," he said. "And we need these for our national unity and a vision for the future. And we believe that we have progressed a long distance toward getting these ratified."

He pointed out that a draft oil law has been approved by the council of ministers and has gone to the full council of representatives. Al-Rubaie called it "a huge step."

"This is government ruled and governed by consensus of the three major communities," al-Rubaie said. "And it has to take its own time. ... We need everybody included in this very important legislation."

He also warned that a no-confidence vote against al-Maliki's government would result in a "hurricane in Iraq."

"Maliki is an honest, determined, decisive nationalist -- Iraqi nationalist -- who is not influenced by any external, regional, or international forces," al-Rubaie said. "His government has done a huge achievement in the way of security, in the way of economics and in the way of politics."

While there are factions -- including many extremist elements -- that "are not happy with the government," al-Rubaie said "it will be extremely difficult ... nearly impossible to form a new government after Maliki."

Despite his previous assertion that Iran has stopped supplying arms to insurgents in Iraq, al-Rubaie said "we are seeing some meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq."

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"My wishful prediction in February obviously was wrong," he said.

The Iraqi government "strongly" denounces Iran's actions and "we will do everything possible with our allies ... in the United States and in Europe to deter anybody from meddling in our internal affairs," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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