This is a partial transcript of an exclusive interview Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki gave to FOX News' David MacDougall on the White House interim report on Iraq:
David MacDougall: This week we had the interim report for the White House, how do you respond to that, it was quite a mixed report?
Nouri Al-Maliki: Actually the initial reading of the report shows that the report was objective, it hit the truth on many points especially when talking about the tangible achievements of the Iraqi government.
Also touching on the benchmarks the government has put on itself in order to stabilize itself, like fighting the militias, fighting Al Qaeda and passing all the necessary legislations as well.
Having said that the report is positive in many aspects, doesn't mean we have some remarks or comments on it.
The most important comments are related to the goals, the steps on the road that the government has put on itself towards the reconstruction, whether materially or politically.
But the conditions the government is working through are difficult, are complicated, but despite that, the government has proved to be able to be effective.
Another aspect is that we admit the steps taken are a bit slow and they need to be speeded up, but we are working alongside all these difficulties and our ambitions are a lot higher than what we have already achieved.
We have to bear in mind that the country has been destroyed, what we have inherited from the previous regime – a completely damaged infrastructure, a completely dysfunctional government institutes.
And we are now embarking on the process of reconstruction.
There is still a lot to be done but we've got the willing and the determination to go through and we are sure we will be able to achieve what we have put in our government program at the formation of the national unity government.
I can also go through some of the positive things we've achieved that can supplement the report that was issued yesterday.
When we took office and formed our government, it was directly after the first Samarra bombing and the atmosphere was very tense.
There was violent sectarian killing around the country many provinces were under the control of Al Qaeda like Diyala and Anbar.
Other provinces were under control of the militias.
But since we have launched the enforcement of the law plan and embarked on the revetting process of our armed forces, we have managed to make some positive achievements.
We now have Anbar back, with the cooperation of the tribes, now we are in the process of regaining Diyala as well.
We have confronted the militia in several other provinces where militias were an issue.
We still have defects here and there, but we have now managed to establish a reality that there is a state, ruling the country, through the rule of law, without discrimination between one sect and the other.
Despite all the difficulties the ordinary citizens are facing with their basic services, we are working on that as well.
We are working on improving the services, we are working on the economy of the country.
Achievements did happen that were of a historical scale, the sharp increase in the average income of the Iraqi family was an achievement we can point to.
Also on the services: Despite the fact the services are still not up to the required level, there has been progress. We have to bear in mind the government is doing so while fighting the terrorists, the militias and the outlaws but his does not turn our attention away from working on providing the citizens with the basic services.
There is progress especially if you put in mind what we have inherited from the previous regime where the infrastructure was completely in ruins.
MacDougall: Going back to the benchmarks – the PM highlighted the positive ones. But the White House report showed there were as many negative aspects as positive ones. There's been no progress on the militia law, and the oil law is mired in political in-fighting for example.
Al-Maliki: I did mention that there are some steps that need progress and need to be worked on more.
Regarding the militia law: The law is ready we are practicing our measures against the militias on a daily basis and we are not in need of a law while confronting the militias at the time being.
We don't have a problem on that field, and we are involved in a day to day work in confronting the problem of the militias.
Regarding the hydrocarbon law, it was passed by the government, and sent to the council of representatives.
The council has some minor remarks and we know that this law will be passed according to the high level political deliberations we are having amongst the major political blocs.
Regarding the provincial elections law: It has also been passed to the council of representatives, and it has been, they have went through the first reading of the law and we have also to bear in mind the council of ministers have decided to cut its summer recess time and continue working even increase the number of sessions per week to be able to achieve and complete the discussion of these laws. We have to bear in mind that time is not the only deciding factor for success.
We should not concentrate on time at the expense of getting a ripe and mature law that the majority of the major political blocs agree upon.
And we also have to abide by the constitutional institutions and what they decide regarding every single law.
MacDougall: The PM has said before [that] he thought the Iraqi security forces could take control of security across the country by the end of the year. Does he still think that's the case?
Al-Maliki: Actually this believe is ongoing, and we are working accordingly.
We have achieved a lot on that aspect.
The militias are now not able to control a single yard of Iraq.
The militias are not allowed – along with Al Qaeda – they are not allowed to control the country.
And the proof of that is that Al Qaeda has started to flee the country, and the militias are starting to realize they have to abide by the law.
For the first time in Iraq now, during the term of this government, the militias, when they start something in any province, they are being confronted in a way that makes them realize they don't have the initiative. The government is in control.
MacDougall: There's debate in the U.S. at the moment about bringing troops home.
What would happen in Iraq if U.S. troops left Iraq by the end of the year?
Al-Maliki: I have to first of all emphasize that us, the Iraqis and the Americans are in a joint operation, and this operation is being governed by interconnecting interests.
The issue of whether the multinational forces stay or leave the country is in a sense connected to the successes and the achievements that are made on the ground.
I believe that the withdrawal of the troops will not happen until the Iraqi troops are in a level of readiness that enables them to confront the terrorism and all the challenges facing the country. And now we are seeing Iraqi troops at the front in many areas, and they are improving.
And that's why we believe that the withdrawal will not happen unless the Iraqi troops are fully built.
We have to mention one thing regarding the successes we are achieving.
As I said, the Al Qaeda elements have started to flee the country and actually neighboring countries are now enforcing monitoring of their borders to prevent Al Qaeda elements from going back into these countries and plotting terrorist attacks in these countries after having to flee Iraq.
I also emphasize the security agreements and achievements now put us in control of our plan to have all the security portfolio handed over in the provinces and the command and control by the end of this year.
This puts us in a position that makes us fully responsible for protecting the country and protecting the achievements that were done in Iraq.
MacDougall: Are you still someone that America can count on to lead Iraq, someone that is a trusted partner of America?
Al-Maliki: This is initially first of all an issue for the American administration, they can decide on this.
But I believe what we have done, this partnership we have achieved, and the high level commitment that the U.S. has shown us, and that President Bush has shown us from support towards this democratic experiment in Iraq, makes us stand side by side and interact with this support and offer all the commitment possible to this democratic experiment, this project in Iraq.
And I think this would give the other side a feeling that we are committed to making the mutual achievements that we need to do here.