U.S. Says Security in Iraq Up to Iraqis Themselves
Sat Sep 6, 1:07 PM ET
By Joseph Logan
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Saturday it was up to Iraqis and not the American-led occupiers to control violence unleashed since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Earlier, Rumsfeld lauded what he said was the "wonderful start" to rebuilding Iraq when he addressed U.S. and Polish soldiers among the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon, even as guerrillas attacked his troops and protesters marched for jobs.
"This country belongs to the Iraqi people. And in the last analysis, it is the Iraqi people who will provide the security in this country," Rumsfeld told a news conference in Baghdad.
Rumsfeld's comments, at the end of a three-day tour of Iraq, were intended to stem mounting criticism of U.S. forces for failing to control lawlessness and prevent a string of car bombs which have killed more than 120 people in the last month.
He challenged Iraqis to provide more information on militants in their midst, described by Washington as Saddam loyalists aided by foreign Islamic extremists.
"Instead of pointing fingers at the security forces of the coalition because there are acts of violence taking place against Iraqi people in this country, it's important for the Iraqi people to step up and take responsibility."
His comments echoed a televised appeal he made to Iraqis aired on Saturday after he taped it the previous day.
Underlining the problems plaguing Iraq, guerrillas staged fresh attacks on U.S. patrols on Saturday while hundreds of protesters marched in the south to demand jobs.
TWO IRAQI ATTACKERS KILLED
In the worst of the attacks, U.S. soldiers killed two Iraqis who opened fire at an observation post in Saddam's home town of Tikrit, north of Baghdad, local commanders said.
An Iraqi boy also died in crossfire between U.S. soldiers and attackers overnight in central Iraq.
With 67 U.S. soldiers killed since major combat was declared over on May 1 and the financial cost of occupying Iraq spiralling, Washington wants other nations to send troops to back its deployment of around 130,000 soldiers.
Britain has an 11,000-strong force and sent 120 more soldiers to Iraq on Saturday at the start of what could be a reinforcement of several thousand.
Other nations have so far sent 9,000 soldiers. But the United States wants 15,000 more and is pushing for a new U.N. resolution to mandate a larger multinational force.
Washington's closest ally, Britain, expressed optimism on Saturday that the United Nations (news - web sites) would reach a deal, despite opposition to the draft motion from France, Germany, Russia.
That trio of nations, denounced by some in the United States as "an axis of weasels," opposed the war and now wants the Iraqi occupation to be in U.N. rather than U.S. hands.
But British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, at a European Union (news - web sites) meeting in Italy, said he was "optimistic that we will be able to agree a text."
Softening Paris's initial skepticism, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in Italy on Saturday that France was willing to consider the text "with an open and constructive mind." But he complained "it doesn't take into account the aim to transfer executive power to the Iraqis as soon as possible."
FISCHER MORE CONCILIATORY
His German counterpart Joschka Fischer, also taking a more conciliatory stance, praised Washington for involving the U.N. despite disagreements over details.
"The American initiative has brought movement into the Security Council and that is very good," he said.
Outside Rumsfeld's Baghdad news conference, about a dozen protesters waved signs with slogans saying "War Criminal" and "Stop the Killing" under Rumsfeld's photo.
In the British-controlled south of Iraq, hundreds of demonstrators gathered peacefully in the city of Basra to demand work. Last month, three people died in two days of violent protests there.
At another demonstration in the nearby port of Al Maqal, hundreds of soldiers from Saddam's disbanded army -- some accompanied by wives and mothers -- marched to demand stipends promised by the occupiers, witnesses said.
(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Andrew Cawthorne in Baghdad, and Saul Hudson in Tikrit)
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