Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lakers' shooting cools; Jazz know they'll heat up

Instead of tapering off, the Los Angeles Lakers' shooting plummeted.

The defense and rebounding seemed to follow, and instead of being on the verge of a sweep, the Lakers hold only a 2-1 lead in their first-round series against Utah.

The Jazz rallied from a 13-point deficit and won 88-86 on Thursday, taking advantage of the first shooting woes the Lakers have had this postseason. Game 4 is Saturday night in Utah, where the Lakers are just 2-10 all-time in playoff games.

"It's a chance for us to come into this building and win a game after playing very bad in that last one," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said after practice Friday.

Bryant went just 5-for-24 on Thursday, never really recovering after missing his first six shots. It was that kind of night for the Lakers, who made just 32 of 87 attempts.

The Lakers didn't expect to maintain their 58 percent shooting from the first two games, but did little to compensate when they finally went cold. The Jazz were then quickest to the ball for the many bounces off the rim.

"They let themselves back into the series — playing hard, playing the right way," Bryant said.

Bryant was quite complimentary of Utah's performance, crediting the Jazz several times for their composure in the come-from-behind victory.

All compliments aside, the Jazz know they could be in for a reinvigorated Bryant on Saturday after angering the 2008 league MVP by shutting him down.

"When you think that you're doing a job on him, wait until you play him next time," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "I'm sure he'll come back. That's what guys like that do. They don't sit around and feel sorry for themselves. He's a veteran player that knows how to kill you."

If Bryant and the Lakers can find something in between the way they shot in the first two games and their performance in Game 3, they are confident they can get out of Utah with a win and be in position to clinch the series when it returns to Los Angeles.

They nearly got a victory Thursday after opening the third quarter 10-for-15 and outscoring Utah 29-17 in the period.

"When we got back into the ballgame and took the lead decisively, we let down our guard," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We stopped playing the kind of defense that got us in that position and let them back in."

The Jazz were hopeful that center Mehmet Okur could be back in the lineup Saturday after missing the first three games of the series with a strained right hamstring. Okur was able to practice on Friday and his status for Game 4 depended on how his hamstring felt Saturday.

The 6-foot-11 Okur would be a welcome addition inside, where the Jazz have had a difficult time stopping the taller Lakers.

Although relieved not to be facing a 3-0 deficit, the Jazz know going back to Los Angeles down 3-1 wouldn't be a whole lot better. Utah made many of the same mistakes it made in the first two games and could easily have lost Thursday.

"We didn't play well at all. Kobe's not going to go 5-for-24 again," point guard Deron Williams said.

Williams had his own shooting struggles in Game 3, making Utah's comeback all the more improbable. He had carried the Jazz through the first two games, keeping Los Angeles from running away with either by averaging 25.5 points and 13 assists, but could not crack the Lakers' defense most of the night.

Williams still ended up winning the game for the Jazz on a 14-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds left.

"They had a chance to put us away," said Carlos Boozer, who tied a team playoff record with 22 rebounds in Thursday's win. "They gave us opportunities to get back into the game and we took them. We were down by 13 and we fought back and won."

The Lakers had double-digit leads in the first two games of the series, too, and were able to hold off the Jazz in both. This time Utah finally completed the rally despite getting manhandled in the third quarter.

The Jazz were somewhat relieved on Friday, both for beating the Lakers for the first time in the series and they way they did it.

"We had a drop-off in our effort to start the third quarter," Sloan said. "We won the ballgame. That's the main thing, but still the effort has to be there."

First-Round Mock Draft

With the NFL Draft hours away, Pewter Report produces its final first-round mock draft. Who is projected to be the newest Buccaneer? What will NFC South rivals New Orleans and Atlanta do with their first-round choices? Which player could prompt the Bucs to trade down? Find out in this mock draft.

Pewter Report has produced the final mock draft for the 2009 NFL Draft. For some other great mock drafts check out and They are the top draft sites on the net for projecting how the drama will unfold on draft day. 2009 NFL Mock Draft

1. Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford QB Georgia
Stafford has a big arm and can make all the throws.

2. St. Louis Rams – Jason Smith OT Baylor
The Rams keep up the tradition of complete players at left tackle with Smith.

3. Kansas City Chiefs – Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
He is probably the best pure football player in this draft. Great leader as well.

4. Seattle Seahawks – Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
The 'Hawks have seen the value of a standout left tackle with Walter Jones.

5. Cleveland Browns – Brian Orakpo DE Texas
The Browns only had 17 sacks last season, and Orakpo is the top pass rusher.

6. Cincinnati Bengals – Andre Smith OT Alabama
Smith is a massive road-grader, and the Bengals need some o-line help.

7. Oakland Raiders – Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
The Raiders need a go-to receiver for quarterback Jamarcus Russell.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars- Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
The Jaguars need a game-breaker and Crabtree can learn under Tory Holt.

9. Green Bay Packers – B.J. Raji DT Boston College
The Packers could use Raji to be the nose in the 3-4 they switched to.

10. San Francisco 49ers – Mark Sanchez QB USC
Sanchez stays in state, and the 49ers could use stability at QB.

11. Buffalo Bills – Michael Oher LT Mississippi
The Bills get a replacement for the recently traded Jason Peters.

12. Denver Broncos – Tyson Jackson DE LSU
Jackson is a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end, and the Broncos need that.

13. Washington Redskins – Aaron Maybin DE Penn State
The Redskins struggled to rush the passer last season.

14. New Orleans Saints – Chris “Beanie” Wells RB Ohio State
Reggie Bush is a glorified third-down back and the Saints know it.

15. Houston Texans – Malcolm Jenkins CB Ohio State
Houston allegedly covets Jenkins, and they need corner help.

16. San Diego Chargers – Brian Cushing LB USC
The draft's most versatile defender will be a great fit in the Chargers 3-4.

17. New York Jets – Josh Freeman QB Kansas State
The Jets' quarterback situation is in rough shape.

18. Denver Broncos – Robert Ayers DE Tennessee
Ayers' size makes him a good fit, with Jackson they move to the 3-4.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Michael Johnson DE Georgia Tech
The Bucs get the pass rusher and athlete they need along the D-line.

20. Detroit Lions – Everette Brown DE Florida State
The Lions need a pass rusher, and Brown is the best available.

21. Philadelphia Eagles – Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia
Brian Westbrook is 30 and injury prone. Moreno makes him better.

22. Minnesota Vikings – Eben Britton OT Arizona
The Vikes need a right tackle. Britton makes Adrian Peterson more dangerous.

23. New England Patriots – Rey Maualuga LB USC
The Patriots could trade up with the Bucs if Maualuga is on the board at 19.

24. Atlanta Falcons – Larry English DE Northern Illinois
The Falcons need a pass rusher. Jamaal Anderson has been a bust.

25. Miami Dolphins – Vontae Davis CB Illinois
The 'Fins need a corner that can play man-to-man. Davis could be great.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
The Ravens get a weapon for Joe Flacco from their backyard.

27. Indianapolis Colts – Peria Jerry DT Mississippi
The Colts need a three technique, and Jerry is a perfect fit for them.

28. Buffalo Bills –Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State
Trent Edwards gets another weapon to go with Lee Evans and T.O.

29. New York Giants - Kenny Britt WR Rutgers
Britt has a Plaxico Burress skill set that worked well with Eli Mannning.

30. Tennessee Titans – Percy Harvin WR Florida
Harvin would combine with Chris Johnson for an explosive offense.

31. Arizona Cardinals – Clay Matthews, JR LB USC
Could easily get drafted sooner. Versatile defender.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers – Max Unger C Oregon
Is a perfect, nasty, physical offensive lineman for the defending champs.

BoSox Look to Win 9th Straight

Boston, Massachusetts -- There were fireworks at Fenway last night as Jason Bay blasted a two run shot off the New York Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 9th to tie the ballgame. Two innings later, Kevin Youkilis hit a walk-off homer to give the Red Sox a 5-4 win over their biggest rivals.

The Sox look to beat the Yankees again this afternoon and extend their winning streak to nine games. Josh Beckett takes the mound for the Red Sox while A.J. Burnett gets the start for the Yanks.

Rihanna wants jewels from police

Singer Rihanna has asked the LA police to return jewellery taken as evidence the night she was allegedly attacked by her boyfriend Chris Brown.

Police took earrings and three rings from the singer hours before the Grammy Awards ceremony in February.

The items, which were on loan from a shop, are worth over $1.4m (£1m).

Lawyer Donald Etra, who represents the 21-year-old star, said the detective overseeing the case did not object to the return of the items.

The shop which owns the jewellery has asked Rihanna to give the goods back as soon as possible.


Mr Etra told the BBC: "Apparently, initially, the police felt that it would be needed as evidence. Now the belief is that photographs would be more than sufficient.

"That being the case, we're asking the District Attorney to return the pieces."

The request for the return of the jewellery states that lawyers for Mr Brown are also happy for the pieces to be released.

Mr Brown, 19, was arrested after rowing with Rihanna in a parked car. Both singers cancelled their scheduled appearances at that evening's Grammy awards.

Later Mr Brown said he was "sorry and saddened" by the incident and had already sought counselling.

He also withdrew his name from Nickelodeon's Kid's Choice Awards after coverage of the events "shifted the focus from the music".

Last month Mr Brown was charged with assault and making criminal threats and is next due to appear in court on 29 April. He denies the charges.

US women 'face North Korea trial'

Two US journalists arrested by North Korea near its border with China are to face trial, North Korea's state media has reported.

Euna Lee, a Korean-American, and Laura Ling, a Chinese-American, who work for Current TV, were detained on 17 March.

The North said it had decided to charge the women after completing an inquiry into their "crimes" - although the precise charges remain unclear.

The North says the two women illegally crossed the border from China.

"Our related agency has decided to turn the US reporters over for trial based on findings of their crimes," KCNA reported.

State media announced earlier this month that it would put the reporters on trial for "hostile acts" and illegally entering the country.

The latest announcement appears to indicate an investigation has been completed to support formal charges, although what those charges are precisely remains unclear.

The Associated Press says the women could face up to five years in prison if convicted of espionage.

'Treated well'

The journalists are believed to have been on the Chinese side of the border when North Korean guards arrested them and took them back to North Korea, although the North disputes this.

North Korea map

They were working on a story about refugees fleeing the hard line communist North.

Washington had initially accepted media reports that the two were being interrogated for espionage, but later said they understood the two were being investigated for illegal entry of North Korea.

The US has no diplomatic representation in the North so has asked Swedish diplomats in North Korea to request access to the reporters.

US state department spokesman Robert Wood said recently that the North had assured the US the detainees would be "well-treated".

Mr Wood has repeatedly said the state department is trying to avoid commenting too much on the case in order to increase chances of a diplomatic negotiation to secure their release.

Relations have also been tense across the border between North and South Korea, with the North refusing this week to release a South Korean worker.

The BBC's John Sudworth, in Seoul, says there are concerns that the two reporters could be used by North Korea as bargaining chips at a time of heightened tension.

Turkey criticises Obama comments

Barack Obama's words on the day marking the killing of Armenians by Turks in World War I were "unacceptable", Turkey's foreign ministry has said.

Though Mr Obama did not use "genocide", as he did during his election campaign, Ankara said he failed to honour those Turks killed by Armenians at the time.

"Everyone's pain must be shared," President Abdullah Gul of Turkey said.

President Obama described the deaths of the Armenians as "one of the great atrocities of the 20th Century".

He appealed for Turks and Armenians to "address the facts of the past as a part of their efforts to move forward".

The two countries agreed this week on a roadmap for normalising relations.

International recognition... is a matter of restoring historic justice
Serzh Sarkisian
Armenian president

Armenians remember 1915 killings
In pictures: Gallipoli remembered

While admitting many Armenians were killed, Turkey, a Nato member and key American ally in the Muslim world, denies committing genocide, saying the deaths resulted from wartime fighting.

Armenia has long campaigned for the loss of its people to be recognised as a crime of genocide and it commemorated the event with ceremonies on Friday.

'My view unchanged'

"I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed," Mr Obama said in a written statement.

"My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts."

In a January 2008 statement on his campaign website, Mr Obama wrote: "The Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence."

"America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides," the 2008 statement added.

On Friday, he said the Armenians killed in the final days of the Ottoman Empire "must live on in our memories".

"I strongly support efforts by the Turkish and Armenian people to work through this painful history in a way that is honest, open, and constructive," he added.

That part of the Obama statement was considered positive by Turkey, a key US ally in the region.

But "history can be construed and evaluated only on the basis of undisputed evidence and documentation," Turkey's foreign ministry statement said.

Mexico flu: Your experiences

eaders in Mexico have been emailing the BBC describing the sense of fear gripping the country as a result of a flu virus outbreak, which has so far claimed up to 60 lives.

The World Health Organization says the virus has the potential to become a pandemic.

Read a selection of BBC readers' comments below.

I work as a resident doctor in one of the biggest hospitals in Mexico City and sadly, the situation is far from "under control". As a doctor, I realise that the media does not report the truth. Authorities distributed vaccines among all the medical personnel with no results, because two of my partners who worked in this hospital (interns) were killed by this new virus in less than six days even though they were vaccinated as all of us were. The official number of deaths is 20, nevertheless, the true number of victims are more than 200. I understand that we must avoid to panic, but telling the truth it might be better now to prevent and avoid more deaths.

Yeny Gregorio Dávila, Mexico City

The situation in Mexico City is really not normal. There is a sense of uncertainty that borders on paranoid behaviour in some cases. At this very moment, Mexican TV is showing how military forces are giving masks to the people in the streets. Moreover the news is sending alarming messages for the audience. Really, the atmosphere in the city is unsettling, a good example: pubs and concerts are being closed or cancelled and people don't haven thorough information. In this city (and country) there is an urgent need for assertive information, no paranoid messages from the government or the Mexican media.

Patricio Barrientos and Aranzazu Nuñez, Mexico City

Massive events have been cancelled at the National Auditorium - Mexico City's largest indoor venue with capacity of 10,000 - which has been closed. Two soccer games have been cancelled at the Olympic Stadium. A sold out game with 70,000 expected attendance will be played behind closed doors. Another game at the famous Azteca Stadium that would draw an attendance of 50,000 will also be played behind closed doors.

Juan Carlos Leon Calderon, Mexico City

It's eerily quiet here in the capital. Lots of people with masks, Facebook communities exchanging gallows humour, everybody waiting to see if schools and universities will stay closed for ten days (as goes the rumour). All masks have been used up, and we are waiting for new supplies.

Dr Duncan Wood, Mexico City

We will be sick soon and, well, do the math - 400 can infect at least another two per day

Adriana, Mexico City

Yesterday in my office it was a bit surreal walking in to see all in blue masks with deep cleansing of computer equipment and surfaces going on. Let's hope it is contained and does not escalate. The local news is reporting 200 fatalities and reports of flu spreading from areas outside of Mexico City. Given the volume of daily commuter traffic on cramped busses and trains, this may not have to be too virulent to be disastrous in human terms. I wonder what controls there will be on flights in and out.

Will Shea, Mexico City

I work for the government as a head of a computer infrastructure operations department. At work we are doing several actions to try not to expose workers. We sent several home. I support the Pumas football team and the very important match with the Guadalajara team will be played behind closed doors. My family and I are going to stay home all weekend. We feel a little scared and confused with the feeling that we are not given being told the truth. Many people think the numbers of dead people is higher than we are being told.

Marcos, Mexico City

The whole city is affected, I have a very bad feeling about this. Two of my friends at work are sick, they were sick for a couple of days, they went to the hospital and they sent them back to work. The doctor told them it was just a flu until Friday when the alarm was spread, then they were allowed to go home. I work in a call centre and I'm worried because there are no windows in the building so it cannot be ventilated and around 400 people work there.

We all have talked to our supervisor but no one has done anything not even sterilise or disinfect the area. We will be sick soon and, well, do the math - 400 can infect at least another two per day. The authorities say there's nothing they can do since it's a private company and I can assure you, the company I work for is not the only one like this in the whole city. Us workers don't have much protection from our government and if we want to keep our jobs we have to go anyway.

Adriana, Mexico City

I'm a college student in Mexico City, and I can only say that the information that the media has provided doesn't seem to be enough, we do not now how serious it is because they have failed to mention it. There have been two ways of responding to this event, the ones that have entered themselves into quarantine claiming that the government is hiding something much more serious, and those who take this as a joke saying that everyone is overreacting. To put a cherry on top all kind of crazy rumours are flying around - that they are going to quarantine Mexico City, that a school and some specific branches of offices and jobs are going to be suspended for days to come, and so on. I wish more info was available, for example how to prevent it? Have there been many deaths? Is there a threat of an epidemic?

Mari A, Mexico City

I didn't hear about the flu epidemic until last night at 2330. Yesterday the streets were almost empty compared to a normal Friday afternoon. The media is bombarding the same information over and over again, but the authorities haven't said anything new yet, only that they have enough vaccines for those with the flu and that we should avoid public spaces.

Paulina, Mexico City

This is another blow to the tourism industry in Mexico, even though non of the events that is taken place is anywhere near the tourist areas of Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta, the news comes across as all of Mexico is affected! After wrong reports of drug related violence, military presence etc. in Cancun, which hurt the industry tremendously, now people think that all of Mexico is affected by a virus that is mostly present in the capital. I guess the problem is that this is a country where the capital carries the same name as the country, thus when people hear news about Mexico, albeit it refers to Mexico City, they assume it is affecting the whole country.

Trapped Sri Lankans face starvation

Tens of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka's northern war zone face starvation, Tamil Tiger separatists and government officials have said.

The warning comes as the UN's senior humanitarian official is due in the country to assess the crisis.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in a statement on Saturday that food stocks had dwindled, making starvation "imminent".

They have called on the UN and the international community to ensure that supplies are swiftly sent to the area where an estimated 50,000 people remain.

"We fear that further delay can result in a crisis similar to that faced in Darfur or even deadlier," the group said in a statement published on the rebel-allied TamilNet website.

Dire situation

The civilians' dire situation has deteriorated in recent days with the Sri Lankan military pressing ahead with its offensive to destroy the LTTE in a war that has been raging for a quarter of a century.

Al Jazeera's David Chater, reporting from Sri Lanka, said: "We have heard from many people that humanitarian supplies still around were being taken by the Tamil Tigers and sold to the people [displaced by fighting].

"Many of the people I saw were in an advanced state of dehydration. Many of the older people were extremely malnourished and you can only imagine what it is like for the children trapped inside the conflict zone."

Camps for the displaced have received 100,000 people in just a week [AFP]
He said that the camps for internally displaced people had received a "huge influx" - more than 100,000 in just one week - and they "definitely need help as well not only from the UN but also from any government that can bring aid to them".

"It is a desperate situation for those who have just escaped and the Tigers said it was equivalent to Darfur and might even be deadlier," Chater reported.

Aid workers say more than 100,000 civilians have fled the tiny coastal strip still under the control of the LTTE, flooding hospitals in the north and overwhelming government-run camps for the displaced.

Dr Gnana Gunalan, director of health services in Trincomalee district and former chairman of Sri Lanka Red Cross, told Al Jazeera that the displaced people he saw had starved for days and were malnourished and needed food.

"Their first priority is food. Everybody is asking for food," he said.

The UN says at least 50,000 civilians remain caught in the war zone.

The Tamil Tigers says the number of civilians is three times that estimated by the UN.

Medicine shortage

Dr Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi, a senior Sri Lankan government health official, said on Friday that there was a severe shortage of food and medicines.

The government has barred aid groups and journalists from the area since last year, arguing that it is too dangerous for them.

The UN sent John Holmes, its senior humanitarian official, to Sri Lanka on Saturday to look into the welfare of the civilians, Marie Okabe, the UN deputy spokeswoman, said.

The humanitarian situation "continues to be critical, civilian casualties have been tragically high and their suffering horrendous," Okabe said.

Thousands killed

The UN says nearly 6,500 civilians have been killed in the fighting over the past three months.

The Tigers, listed as a terror group by many Western nations, have been fighting since 1983 for an ethnic Tamil state in the north and east after decades of what they call marginalisation by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.

After more than three years of intense fighting, the government appears on the verge of crushing the group.

Riding a wave of popularity from its war success, Sri Lanka's ruling party appeared the favorite to win Saturday's council election in the Western province.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Clinton to Iraqis: US not going to abandon you

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought to assure Iraqis on Saturday that the Obama administration would not abandon their country even as it presses ahead with plans to withdraw American troops amid a recent surge in violence.

Clinton said the drawdown would be handled in a "responsible and careful way" and would not affect efforts to improve Iraq's security forces, or complete reconstruction and development projects.

But Iraqis, and particularly their security forces, need to overcome sectarian and other differences if they are to build a united, secure nation, she said.

"Let me assure you and repeat what President Obama said, we are committed to Iraq, we want to see a stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq," she told a nervous but receptive crowd at a town hall meeting at the U.S. Embassy in the capital.

"We are very committed, but the nature of our commitment may look somewhat different because we are going to be withdrawing our combat troops over the next couple of years," Clinton said.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari welcomed the overture.

"The secretary's message today to all of us was a very assuring message that the United States would continue to support the efforts of the Iraqi government and the enhancement of Iraqi security and stability," he said later at a joint news conference.

He also said he had reaffirmed the government's commitment to the timetable despite concerns that the uptick in attacks could prompt a need to reconsider a June 30 deadline for the United States to withdraw combat soldiers from Iraqi cities.

"We are doing our utmost and we are coordinating very closely with the multinational forces to ensure that there is no vacuum when that happens, that security is viable," he said.

On her first trip to Iraq as America's top diplomat, Clinton said the country has made great strides despite the recent surge in violence. High-profile attacks this past week primarily targeted Shiite worshippers. More than 150 people, many of them Iranian pilgrims, have died.

"I condemn these violent recent efforts to disrupt the progress that Iraq is making," she said at the news conference with Zebari.

Clinton called the attacks a sign that extremists are afraid the Iraqi government is succeeding.

Iran's supreme leader blamed the United States and Israel for the attacks. "Dirty hands and evil brains that founded this blind and uncontrolled terrorism in Iraq should know that the fire will burn themselves," Iran's state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying on Saturday.

Clinton rejected the assertion.

"It is disappointing for anyone to make such a claim since it is clearly traced to the al-Qaida remnants and other violent groups who wish to disrupt the progress of Iraq," she said.

Clinton also praised the restraint shown by Iraqis in the aftermath.

"These are tragic and terrible events, but they do not reflect any diversion from the security progress that has been made," she said.

"They are certainly regrettable and horrible in terms of loss of life, but the reaction from the Iraqi people and Iraqi leaders was firm and united in rejecting that violence and refusing to allow it to set Iraqi against Iraqi, which is obviously one of its intended goals."

Violence is at its lowest since the months following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. But sectarian attacks have exposed gaps in security as Iraq takes over from U.S. forces in protecting the country.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a military task force to investigate the attacks as well as shortcomings that allowed the assailants to slip through. The government on Saturday also ordered heightened security at major Shiite shrines.

The Pentagon plans to hand over responsibility for most urban security in about three months as part of the administration's goal of a complete exit of forces by the end of 2011.

U.S. officials say they remain committed to a June 30 deadline to move all forces outside major cities, including Baghdad. But the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, has said American troops could "maintain a presence" in some cities if requested by the Iraqis.

"Frankly, some people are afraid," said one participant in the town hall who said many questioned the ability, competence and neutrality of Iraq's security forces, given the U.S. withdrawal plan.

"There is nothing more important than to have a united Iraq," Clinton replied. "The more united Iraq is, the more you will trust your security services. The security services have to earn your trust but the people have to demand it."

"We will be working closely with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces as we withdraw our combat troops, but we need to be sure that all of you are supporting a strong, nonsectarian security force and we will work to try and help make that happen," she said.

Clinton was met at the airport by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and the new U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Christopher Hill.