Clinton: Iraq 'on right track'

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that this week’s deadly suicide bombings in Iraq are a sign that extremists are afraid the Iraqi government is succeeding.

Making her first trip to Iraq as America’s top diplomat, Mrs Clinton said the country has made great strides despite the recent violence that killed at least 148 people in Baghdad and outside on Thursday and yesterday.

“I think that these suicide bombings ... are unfortunately, in a tragic way, a signal that the rejectionists fear that Iraq is going in the right direction,” Mrs Clinton told reporters travelling aboard her plane ahead of her unannounced visit to Baghdad.

“I think in Iraq there will always be political conflicts, there will always be, as in any society, sides drawn between different factions, but I really believe Iraq as a whole is on the right track,” she said, citing “overwhelming evidence” of “really impressive” progress.

“Are there going to be bad days? Yes, there are,” Mrs Clinton said. “But I don’t know of any difficult international situation anywhere in the world or history where there haven’t been bad days.”

Mrs Clinton arrived a day after back-to-back suicide bombings killed 60 people outside the most important Shiite shrine in Baghdad.

Those attacks came after Iraq on Thursday was rocked by its most deadly violence in more than a year when 88 people were killed by suicide bombers in Baghdad and Muqdadiyah, north of the capital.

Although the violence is at its lowest levels since the months following the 2003 US-led invasion, the latest bombings come amid an increase in high-profile sectarian attacks that have raised concerns about the abilities of Iraq’s security forces.

They have exposed gaps in security as Iraq takes over from US forces in protecting the country and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a military task force to investigate the attacks as well as shortcomings that allowed the assailants to slip through.

Mrs Clinton said she would press the Iraqis with US help to create a “non-sectarian security force that will not tolerate either sectarian actions or any kind of armed assault on the people of Iraq”.

She is in Baghdad, following President Barack Obama’s brief visit earlier this month, to assure Iraqi authorities of the administration’s support even as it moves to draw down the US military presence in the country.

“We want the Iraqi people to know that the United States remains committed to helping them navigate through this period and have a better future,” she said, ahead of meetings with al-Maliki, President Jalal Talibani and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

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