BAGHDAD Jan 8 Iraq's prime minister vowed to
uproot al Qaeda and said he was sure of victory as his army
prepared to launch a major assault against Sunni Islamist
militants in the city of Falluja.
In a televised address on Wednesday, Nuri al-Maliki also
thanked the international community for its support in the fight
against al Qaeda and urged the group's members and supporters to
surrender, promising clemency.
The United States said earlier this week it would fast-track
deliveries of military hardware, including drones and missiles,
to Iraq, but ruled out sending troops two years after Washington
ended nearly a decade of occupation.
"The support ... is giving us the confidence that we are
moving on the right course and that the result will be clear and
decisive: uprooting this corrupted organization," Maliki said.
"We will continue this fight because we believe that al
Qaeda and its allies represent evil."
Fighters from the al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant (ISIL), which is also active across the border in
Syria, overran police stations in Falluja and another city in
Iraq's western Anbar province last week.
The army deployed more tanks and artillery around Falluja on
Tuesday as local leaders tried to persuade militants to leave in
order to avert an impending offensive that has echoes of U.S.
assaults on the same city in 2004.
"We don't want this city to suffer and we will not use
force, as long as the tribes announce their readiness to
confront al Qaeda and expel it," Maliki said.
During the insurgency that raged in Anbar following the
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, local tribes eventually rose
up against al Qaeda and routed the group in what came to be
known as the "Awakening".
But the Islamists have been regaining ground in Anbar over
the past year, with the stated aim of creating a Sunni religious
state straddling the border into Syria's rebel-held eastern
Maliki described the group's pledge to retake territory it
lost to U.S. troops as a "dream of Satan" and said the militants
were intent on delaying elections scheduled for April this year.
"They (al Qaeda) seek to totally cripple the political
process and to hamper the movement of rebuilding not only in
Iraq but the entire region," he said.
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing
by Giles Elgood)