Friday, March 21, 2008
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq has defeated terrorism and is well on the road to recovery after five years of war, a confident Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday.
Then the lights went out.
Maliki, known for his steely nerves, tried to continue his speech. But his bodyguards would have none of that.
They hustled him off the stage,, possibly fearing that the power failure might be part of a plot against the prime minister.
Maliki's speech was an attempt to boost his nation's morale on the anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. But its abrupt end was a reminder of the obstacles ahead.
Iraqis must cope with frequent power outages, lack of clean drinking water, rampant joblessness — and the ever-present fear of violent death. Five years of bombs, bullets and sectarian slaughter have sapped much of the spirit from this troubled nation. Despite signs of progress, many Iraqis hold out little hope for a quick end to their suffering.
"The situation is very unstable," said Jassim Mohammed, 40, a Sunni employee of the Iraqi National Library in Baghdad. "I simply do not see any light at the end of this dark tunnel."