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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published July 22 2010

Pawlenty sees an improved Iraq

ST. PAUL – Conditions in Iraq are improving, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday during an unannounced visit.

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

Military leaders invited Pawlenty and four other governors to visit Iraq. Their trip is to continue, but Pawlenty – who has been to Iraq five times – said he was not allowed to reveal future stops.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, also on the trip, said he thinks Iraqis and their American allies are winning the war, building a new government and rebuilding their country after years of fighting.

“It is still a war zone, there’s no question about that,” said Rounds, who toured Iraq once before.

He said he sees improvement since the last time he was in the country, with Iraqis striving to “form a government in a timely fashion.”

“They may well become a very good ally of the American people in the future,” Rounds said.

Pawlenty, a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, would not give Democratic President Barack Obama 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.

Tom Lawrence of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D., contributed to this story.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707