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Isakson says U.S. troop surge making a difference in Iraq

U.S. senator also discusses drought, Delta's future

POSTED: January 28, 2008 5:02 a.m.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said the U.S.-led surge is bringing positive results in Iraq. The junior senator made his comments Wednesday in a speech to the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce.

Isakson, who returned last week from Iraq, said for the first time he was able to travel by vehicle on the ground and spent the night in Iraq.

"A year ago, the sun wouldn’t set with a member of Congress on the ground in Iraq," Isakson said. "This time, I slept in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in a plywood petitioned-off bunkhouse."

Isakson said an important change began Wednesday in Iraq.

"They are now moving forward with the de-Baathification and reconciliation provisions, which were one of the benchmarks we put in for the Iraqis to have to achieve," Isakson said.

De-Baathification is the process of removing former members of the ruling Baath party of Iraq from the military and civil office. Most were former operatives of Hussein.

On the drought, Isakson said the state is mired in the second-worst drought in history.

"Don’t forget this drought, because it could happen again," Isakson said. "We need to do some things to see that we’re better prepared the next time around."

Isakson said that he and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., were committed to holding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the governors of Georgia, Florida and Alabama accountable and that a tri-state water agreement is reached and enforced.

Isakson said he believes the Senate will reverse the action by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala, to withhold funds for updating operating manuals on the river systems in Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

"(The Shelby amendment) has no effect now, it could have an effect in nine to 18 months," Isakson said. "We’ve gotten a commitment from the committee chairman that we’re going to get that (amendment) out of there. That was a little gamesmanship at the 11th hour."

On another front, Isakson said he has assurances from officials from Delta Air Lines that any proposed merger would not take the carrier out of Atlanta.

"Richard Anderson has pledged to me again last week that if Delta does a deal, it will be Delta Air Lines and it will be Atlanta based," he said.

Anderson is chief executive officer of Delta.

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., said Tuesday that Northwest Airlines has entered into formal merger discussions with Delta Air Lines and will look for another partner if Delta tries to merge with United Airlines instead. Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, confirmed the talks in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, saying he met with two Northwest executives Tuesday in his Washington office.

The chamber event was held on the campus of North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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