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Iraqi Envoy: Zarqawi's Death Sends 'Message'

Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie is a former minister of interior.
Christine Arrasmith, NPR
Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie is a former minister of interior.

No one believes that the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will eliminate the violence in Iraq overnight. But it sends "a powerful message" that Zarqawi's brand of brutality won't be tolerated, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States says.

"There are a lot of killers, but there are a lot more who do not want the killing," Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie says. "By eliminating Zarqawi, we have really sent a powerful message that people who peddle violence, and particularly this brand of brutal violence, will be pursued and will be eliminated and they are on the losing side."

Zarqawi's death Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad came as key government ministers were appointed, rounding out Iraq's new Cabinet. Among the appointments is Shiite Jawad al-Bolani, who will head the interior ministry.

"The first thing he will have to do is restore confidence in the national police by weeding out bad elements and making sure that the police are nonpartisan, are above politics and [that] they are commissioned to uphold the law," says Sumaidaie, himself a former interior minister. "This change of culture in the ministry will be his single most challenging and important task."

American military officials in Iraq want to turn over more law enforcement duties to civil authorities. But charges of bribery, corruption and violence have called into question the effectiveness of the new Iraqi police force.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.