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Gov. Pawlenty visits troops in Iraq

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is in Iraq visiting American troops, after touring Walter Reed Army Hospital before he left the United States.

In his fifth trip to Iraq, Pawlenty said via telephone this afternoon that conditions are improving in the war-torn country. He attributed some of that to the nearing of a new civilian government forming.

"As that is happening, the violence level has been fairly stable ... even with this uncertainty with this civilian government formation," he said.

However, he added, "Iraq still has a long ways to go" and the United States needs to continue helping the government to be stable.

"There is a hopeful sense here, a more stable sense here than some of my recent previous trips," the Republican governor said.

He would not give President Barack Obama full credit for improvements in Iraq.

The Obama administration "has been largely pursuing a footprint and a blueprint largely set out at the end of the Bush administration," he said.

Pawlenty said he was not allowed to say where he was in Iraq or where he would go from there, but promised to talk to reporters via satellite or telephone in the next few days.

He is part of a trip that includes governors from Vermont, Missouri, South Dakota and Massachusetts.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.