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Iraqi prime minister says violence in Iraq decreasing, despite attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Iraq's prime minister said Sunday that violence was decreasing in his country, despite daily reports of bloodshed and fighting. Nouri al-Maliki insisted that his government was making progress in efforts to combat sectarian clashes between Shiites and Sunnis, and terrorism by Sunni Arab insurgents.

``The violence is not increasing. We're not in a civil war. Iraq will never be in a civil war,'' he said through an interpreter on CNN's Late Edition. ``The violence is in decrease and our security ability is increasing.''

On Sunday, a series of bomb explosions left at least 15 people dead and dozens wounded. That followed 26 killings in dozens of attacks Saturday. Iraqi officials have said about 3,500 Iraqis died violently last month nationwide _ the highest monthly tally of the war.

Al-Maliki refused to set a specific timeline for how much longer U.S. troops would be needed in Iraq. Last week, Republican Rep. Chris Shays, a supporter of the war who previously opposed withdrawal timetables, said the United States should consider setting a timeline for troop withdrawals.

``I don't want to commit to a certain time or a certain period, but I want to have my best efforts to decrease this time to a year or less, or a few months,'' Al-Maliki said.
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