Maliki to Iraqis: Explode, but not like bomb
BAGHDAD - Leader of a country that regularly suffers deadly attacks, Nuri al-Maliki joked on Sunday that while Iraq needed to unleash the explosive energy of its people, he did not mean "like a car bomb."
Marking the end of an agreement with Washington that allowed US troops to be stationed in the country, Iraq's prime minister said that though the task of rebuilding would be difficult, he believed there was "energy in our people."
"We have to work to explode this energy," Maliki said during a speech at Baghdad's Al-Rasheed hotel, in the capital's heavily-fortified Green Zone.
"I do not mean, by exploding, to explode it like a car bomb," he added, before smiling.
Figures released on Sunday showed that while violence was markedly down from its peak in 2006 and 2007, when Iraq was in the throes of a sectarian war, 2,645 people were still killed in attacks last year.
On December 22, more than a dozen attacks in Baghdad itself killed 60 people in the worst violence to strike the country in more than four months.
US forces withdrew from Iraq on December 18, and on Saturday, a bilateral security pact between the two countries that allowed American troops to be stationed in Iraq expired.