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Iraq Central to War on Terror, PM Tells Congress

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DON GONYEA, host:

And I'm Don Gonyea. Iraq's prime minister is making a rare appearance at this hour before a joint session of Congress. Nouri al-Maliki told lawmakers that no one should doubt that Iraq is part of the war on terror. He spoke through an interpreter.

Prime Minister NOURI AL-MALIKI (Iraq): (Through translator) It is your duty and our duty to defeat this terror. Iraq is the frontline in this struggle, and history will prove that the sacrifices of Iraqis for freedom will not be in vain.

GONYEA: The Iraqi prime minister said that people who are committing acts of violence in Iraq are perverting the Islamic faith.

Prime Minister MALIKI: Let me be very clear. This is a battle between true Islam - for which a person's liberty and rights constitute essential cornerstones - and terrorism, which wraps itself in a fake Islamic cloak, and reality wages a war on Islam and Muslims.

GONYEA: Maliki's speech was interrupted at one point by a protestor in the gallery who called for U.S. troops to be brought home. That prompted House Speaker Dennis Hastert to call on the Iraqi leader to stop his address until the marshals restored order. Prior to his speech, Prime Minister Maliki was facing skepticism from some members of Congress who objected to his criticism of Israel's military offensive against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Some Democrats had threatened to boycott the speech, but the house appeared full, and Prime Minister Maliki received a warm welcome from both sides of the aisle. He thanked the Congress and the American people for their support.

Prime Minister MALIKI: (Through translator) Iraq will not forget those who stood with him and continues with her in times of need.

GONYEA: Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking today through an interpreter before a joint session of Congress. This was his first visit to Washington since becoming prime minister two months ago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.