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National Public Radio: Nancy Pelosi Visits Iraq

May 18, 2008 Sunday

Weekend All Things Considered

Nancy Pelosi Visits Iraq

ANDREA SEABROOK, host: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still in the Middle East. She stopped in Iraq on Saturday to meet with General David Petraeus and the American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. The Democratic speaker then moved on to Israel, and that's where I reached her earlier today. I asked the speaker what she was aiming for with the Iraqi visit.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California, Speaker of the House): We went there in preparation for Memorial Day to pay tribute to our troops. We also met with Prime Minister Al-Maliki and the equivalent of the speaker of the House in Iraq.

SEABROOK: And what was your message to them?

Rep. PELOSI: My message to them is a constant message.  It's a message that we voted last week in Congress. That the American people have lost patience with this war.  We've lost far too many of young men and women. We have too many injuries, loss in reputation in the world, loss in taxpayers' dollars, loss in capability to meet our threats to our country or our friends wherever they may occur.  That we had passed last week legislation that would call for the responsible, honorable and safe redeployment of our troops out of Iraq by the end of 2009.

SEABROOK: And I understand you spoke with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki about provincial elections.

Rep. PELOSI: Prime Minister al-Maliki and the speaker both told us that the provincial elections would take place this year, and said they would be transparent, inclusive, and that they would lead to reconciliation in Iraq. I hope that's the case. That's what they maintained, but then we've heard that song before.

SEABROOK: Did you press them for those elections on whether they would be inclusive, especially of Sunnis?

Rep. PELOSI: Well, they maintained that they would be, and only time will tell. The speaker of the House in Iraq is a Sunni. And he maintained that there would be greater Sunni participation. But this is one issue long overdue in Iraq. I think it is very clear that unless and until the United States speaks clearly to the Iraqi government that our time there is limited, that they will not make the changes necessary.

SEABROOK: Are the elections necessary for the U.S. to pull out?

Rep. PELOSI: But how, I don't see them, I mean, that is just one point. There's so many things that have to happen in Iraq. But the Iraqi government has had the opportunity with the secure time that the surge has given them to make the political changes necessary. They have not done that.

SEABROOK: I just want to make sure I understand. So you believe that the Iraqi the government will not make political progress until the United States is ready to pack up and leave.

Rep. PELOSI: It's not a question of pack up and leave, and I hope that people will not fall into the terminology. To me, it seems obvious that the Iraqi government has not made the necessary political change that it should and they will only do that when we signal to them that our patience is limited.

SEABROOK: Have you done that in Congress. I mean, you're the speaker of the House. You're not a candidate for president. You're not just political bluster. You're actually in charge.

Rep. PELOSI: Yes, and we have passed in the House of Representatives over and over again legislation with either a time certain or a goal for our redeployment out of Iraq. It has hit a brick wall in the Senate because the Republicans there have not allowed the 60 votes in order to send the bill to the president.

SEABROOK: Speaker Pelosi, you were last in Iraq just after the Democrats took the majority in the House of Representatives. Have you seen any progress?

Rep. PELOSI: There may be a little progress. I don't know. It's not obvious. And whatever it is, it's certainly not enough for the cost it has been to us in terms of lives and dollars and reputation and military capability.

SEABROOK: Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, thanks very much for joining us.

Rep. PELOSI: Thank you, Andrea.