Source AP ©

US top diplomat in Iraq urges al-Maliki's government to speed up reforms

Top Diplomat of the U.S. in Iraq urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to speed up reforms geared toward achieving national reconciliation.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker listed the adoption of a draft law for the equitable distribution of oil wealth, another to integrate members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party in government departments, amending the constitution to satisfy Sunni Arab demands and holding local elections as measures that the government had a "responsibility to tackle in the coming weeks."

"These are tasks that must be completed, and completed soon, to achieve national reconciliation," he said in an Arabic-language statement marking the first anniversary of al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government.

"The first anniversary of a democratic government in Iraq is a victory for the people of Iraq. They've chosen their leaders and now it is the right of every citizen in a democratic society to expect measures and decisions from their elected representatives to serve the interests of Iraqis."

Crocker's statement provided the latest evidence that Washington had al-Maliki's government on notice that it must meet several policy benchmarks to secure continued U.S. support at a time when the Bush administration was under congressional pressure over its Iraq policies.

"The transition of any nation to a democratic system is considered a complex process ... It is easy to focus on the problems and challenges. Easy but wrong," said Crocker, who took over his job in late March.