BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki assured visiting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sunday that the planned American troop withdrawal from Iraqi cities won't affect his country's security.
"We don't need big numbers of military forces inside the cities after we get control of them," Maliki said after talks with the influential lawmaker, who arrived in Baghdad on an unannounced visit.
"The responsible withdrawal (of U.S. troops) will not affect the security situation," Maliki said.
A fierce critic of the 2003-U.S. invasion that former President George W. Bush ordered, Pelosi made her one-day visit came as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Iraq's urban areas by the end of next month despite a spike in violence.
The withdrawal is a key part of a military accord Baghdad and Washington signed in November that also will see U.S. troops leave the country by the end of 2011.
Maliki said Iraq's military efforts are concentrated on improving its intelligence services.
Congress, for its part, should try to develop bilateral relations focused on the scientific and economic agreements signed by the two countries, he said.
"Under stability, we are seeking to develop our economy, especially the oil industry, after multinationals have already come to work and invest in the sector," he said.
Pelosi said that Washington would stick to its part of the agreement on troop withdrawals.
"I can't speak to what the attitude is in Iraq, but what I do know that this is the plan that has been agreed upon, and we want to honour that," the California Democrat said after meeting parliament speaker Iyad al-Samarrai.
"Our agenda included talking about the strategic framework agreement and how it needs to be discussed and strengthened and enforced," Pelosi told a news conference after the meeting.
Washington is withdrawing its troops in spite of the continued violence in Iraq, she said.
Tackling the rampant corruption that international surveys routinely say makes Iraq one of the world's most corrupt countries also is crucialto its stability, as is improving U.S. intelligence, she said.
"If we're going to have a diminished physical military presence, we have to have a strong intelligence presence," she said.
Pelosi, who previously visited Iraq in January 2007 and again in May of last year, also met with US officials and later left the country, a U.S. embassy official said.
Her visit came as Iraq has been hit by a spate of deadly bombings which targeted crowded civilian areas, making April — with 355 people killed — the bloodiest month in the country since September.
Despite the violence, Iraq has insisted it will stick to the deadline for American troops to withdraw from cities by June 30, while Washington's top commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, has insisted the pullout is on track.
Pelosi has backed President Barack Obama's plan to end U.S. combat operations in Iraq by August 2010, but has at the same time faulted his plans to leave behind a residual force of up to 50,000 soldiers.
"The remaining missions given to our remaining forces must be clearly defined and narrowly focused so that the number of troops needed to perform them is as small as possible," she said in February.
The U.S. militaryhas about 139,000 troops in Iraq.
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