US sees corruption as grave threat to Iraqi democracy

Baghdad, Aug 27 | Updated: Aug 29 2008, 05:18am hrs
Corruption is a grave and gathering threat to Iraq's fragile democracy and its strides in curtailing bloodshed, a senior US official in Baghdad said. Unchecked, corruption "threatens the stability of the democracy, because people won't support a government that is widely viewed as corrupt through and through," Ambassador Lawrence Benedict, anti-corruption coordinator at the US embassy in Baghdad, said in an interview this week.

"Senior officials in the Iraqi government have characterised corruption as the second insurgency -- that's pretty strong language in a place like this," Benedict said. "Iraqis view it a serious problem, and we certainly share that view."

Widespread graft is drawing scrutiny as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government seeks to match success on the battlefield with government reforms and political progress. After more than five years of war, violence across Iraq has dropped to levels not seen since 2004. But Iraq scored only above Myanmar and Somalia in 2007 in transparency.