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US’ Iraq ambassador sees progress despite bombing


Washington : Christopher Hill, the outgoing US ambassador to Iraq, insisted Iraq has made progress in reducing the level of violence in the past year, shrugging off the lack of a government and a devastating bombing in Baghdad Tuesday.

The White House also said the draw-down of US combat troops in Iraq remained “firmly on track” as it condemned the suicide attack outside an Iraqi Army recruiting centre in Baghdad, which killed at least 58 people and left 130 others injured.

“I think Iraq is increasingly stable,” Hill, who left his post last week, said in a farewell Washington press conference. “It’s clearly going in the right direction.”

Despite such ongoing “horrific news” like Tuesday’s bombing, Hill suggested the violence remained scattered – “the kinds of security problems that are not somehow shaking the political structures.”

“I take from that a sense of stability in the country,” said Hill, who had served since 2009 and is succeeded by James Jeffrey, a former ambassador to Turkey.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said the US remained committed to pulling its combat forces out of Iraq by the end of this month.

“There are obviously still people who want to derail the advances that the Iraqi people have made towards democracy, but they are firmly on track and we’re confident that we’re moving towards the end of our combat mission there,” Burton said.

Hill acknowledged that he wished his tenure had ended with an agreement on the formation of an Iraqi government. Politicians have been deadlocked since elections were held five months ago.

Hill will retire from the US State Department in September after a distinguished 33-year career in the foreign service, including his last stint mediating in the US conflict with North Korea.