Iraq may be safest Arab country: Maliki

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki chairing a Cabinet meeting in Baghdad. Al-Maliki gave his cabinet 100 days to improve the delivery of services to Iraq's people or face "changes," after nationwide protests. (AFP)

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday that Iraq may be the safest country in the Arab world, as protests and violence rage across much of the region.

Maliki's remarks came as he reiterated his optimism that an Arab League summit set to be held in Baghdad on March 29 would go ahead as scheduled, despite the upheaval.

"Iraq could be the safest country (in the Arab world) at this stage," Maliki told a news conference in the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone.

Though violence is much lower than its peak in 2006 and 2007 across Iraq, attacks still occur regularly, and the number of people killed in January, 259, was the highest in four months.

On the Arab League summit, Maliki said: "We are still optimistic about holding the summit in Baghdad, and the Arab League still wants it."

He added Iraq was willing to postpone the summit by one or two months, if necessary.

Several countries in the region have been roiled by massive demonstrations and unrest in recent weeks, starting with the fall of Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, followed by the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and now with violence in Libya against the rule of Moamer Kadhafi.

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