Sunday, April 22, 2007

Iraqi PM Orders Halt to Baghdad Barrier

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Sunday that he has ordered a halt to the construction of a barrier that would separate a Sunni enclave from surrounding Shiite areas in Baghdad, saying there are other ways to protect the neighborhood.

The U.S. military announced last week that it was building a large concrete wall in the northern Azamiyah section of Baghdad in an effort to protect the minority Sunnis from attacks by Shiites living nearby.

The decision drew sharp criticism from residents and Sunni leaders who complained it would isolate their community.

In his first public comments on the issue, al-Maliki said he had ordered the construction to stop.

``I oppose the building of the wall and its construction will stop,'' al-Maliki told reporters during a joint news conference with the Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Moussa in Cairo, Egypt. ``There are other methods to protect neighborhoods.''

He did not elaborate but added ``this wall reminds us of other walls,'' in an apparent reference to the wall that divided the German city of Berlin during the Cold War.

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