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Al-Maliki: Iraq testimony was realistic

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  • NEW: Nuri al-Maliki calls testimony a "positive report" about Iraq war
  • Prime minister tells CNN's Anderson Cooper "there is a problem in parliament"
  • Al-Maliki gives condolences to U.S. soldiers who have been injured or killed
  • He says he harbors no ill will toward U.S. lawmakers who want him out of office
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called testimony given by the U.S. top commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq "realistic and objective."

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told CNN that testimony given by top U.S. officials about Iraq was realistic.

Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified before Congress this week about the progress of the war in Iraq.

"In general, it is a positive report, and reflects a reality and looks forward, like we do, to a brighter future," al-Maliki told CNN's Anderson Cooper in Iraq on Wednesday.

Cooper asked al-Maliki about Crocker's description of his government as largely dysfunctional.

Al-Maliki said, "I did not want to say that I completely agree with the testimony."

The 57-year-old Shiite said Crocker and the U.S. may have misunderstood the challenge of national reconciliation among Iraq's main ethnic and religious groups.

"Ambassador Crocker now knows that this will need time and effort, or as some said, it needs strategic patience," he said.

Live from Iraq
While politicians debate the war, Anderson Cooper is in Iraq, keeping them honest.
All this week at 10 p.m. ET

When Cooper again asked al-Maliki whether his government is dysfunctional, the prime minister acknowledged that "there is a problem in parliament, in ministries, in how ministries are selected. ... Yes, it is suffering and needs backing, development and rethinking."

Cooper said, "So, just so I'm clear, you are actually agreeing to some extent that the government has been dysfunctional?"

Al-Maliki replied, "Yes... definitely, that is why we are considering re-energizing it and reconsidering the process of minister selection so that they are more professional. But this does not mean that the ministers did not achieve anything, they fought all the challenges and achieved successes, but we want more successes."

Despite the Iraqi government's weaknesses, "It was able to achieve something we can describe as success," said al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki said the "surge" in U.S. troops in Baghdad has, "to a great extent," overcome al Qaeda in Iraq forces and the challenges of insurgent militias and terrorism.

But he acknowledged more work remains.

Al-Maliki said he harbors no ill will toward U.S. politicians who have criticized his leadership, such as Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who has called for the prime minister's resignation.

"Frankly, I don't blame them when they don't know the facts, and when they don't realize the difficulties," al-Maliki said. "Every person wishes that everything happen[s] fast and with ease, but he who lives the problems and the challenges is who appreciates the situation."

Al-Maliki said he has not considered stepping down.

"I am not one of those who think of running away from the battlefield and the confrontation," he said.

Asked about the U.S. military practice of paying Sunni tribes to provide security in areas such as Anbar province, al-Maliki said the practice "needs to be clarified."

"The vision that we agreed upon is to support financially, and secondly to take sons of tribesmen who are suited for work in the police and army and recruit them under government supervision," he said.

He said tribes consider such moves, which aim to avoid problems that could arise from arming the tribes directly, "a service."

He added that recruits include only people with clean criminal records.

It could be 12 to 18 months before Iraqi security forces are able to handle security for the country, but a joint effort with coalition forces could complete the job in less time, he said.

Cooper asked al-Maliki how he feels about calls to set a specific date to withdraw troops from Iraq. The prime minister said his countrymen need no further pressure to speed the training of Iraqi forces to take over security of the country.

"We are the ones who desire to carry out the tasks involving preparing and training in the speediest time," he said.

"If the security forces get to a stage that is near self-reliance, God willing, it won't take long before the Iraqi forces will be able to take control of the security completely."

Al-Maliki said he was perplexed by the negative reaction of some observers to his recent visit to Tehran, Iran, where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. U.S. politicians have accused Ahmadinejad of trying to destabilize Iraq.

Such a meeting "is something normal between nations," he said. "Even during conflict, they meet and negotiate."

He said his last visit resulted in the Iranians committing to stop cross-border violence.

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Cooper asked al-Maliki what he would tell the parents of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq. Was their sacrifice worth the cost?

Al-Maliki offered his condolences and added, "We think that the large goals that were achieved in supporting democracy, freedom, and human rights deserve sacrifice. ... I wish that we were more capable in taking responsibility to lower the sacrifice from the American side and multi-national forces." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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