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Don't panic, Iraq tells U.S. and UK

By Adrian CroftMon Oct 23, 6:04 AM ET

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih warned against defeatism and panic on Monday as his U.S. and British allies came under growing pressure to change their Iraq strategy in the face of relentless bloodshed.

Salih, in London for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British ministers, made clear his anxiety about the change in tone in London and Washington, where senior figures are questioning whether the current strategy in Iraq is viable.

"I'm obviously concerned about the debate both in the U.S. and Europe, I have to say, because there is too much of a pessimistic tone to this debate -- even I would say in certain circles a defeatist tone," he told BBC radio.

"We need to be realist but not defeatist. We need to understand that there is a need of utmost urgency to deal with many of the problems of Iraq but we must not give in to panic."

U.S. military deaths in Iraq in October have reached 83, making it the most deadly month for Americans this year and raising pressure on President George W. Bush before Congressional elections next month in which Republicans could lose majorities in both houses.

U.S. military officials in Iraq have admitted that a two-month plan to secure Baghdad has failed to curb violence.

In Britain, army chief General Richard Dannatt sparked a political storm this month by saying British troops should withdraw from Iraq soon as their presence was worsening the security situation there and in the wider world.

Salih said the current situation in Iraq could not go on.

"Especially the last month has been exceptionally tough and difficult, but really failure is not an option...," he said.

British officials gave a similar message before their meetings with Salih. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said: "We need to keep our nerve. We need to get Iraq back on its feet. We need to establish greater stability."


The Iraqi government recognized it could not be business as usual and planned important laws on demobilization and disarmament of militias, Salih said.

Bush said on Saturday he would make "every necessary change" in tactics to try to control violence in Iraq, but said the U.S. goal there was clear and unchanging.

U.S. State Department official Alberto Fernandez said on Al Jazeera television the U.S. had shown "arrogance" and "stupidity" in Iraq, but later said he had misspoken.

Blair has vowed to stand firm on his policy of withdrawing progressively from Iraq as local security forces take over from British troops. An official said at the weekend that Iraqi security forces could be ready to take over within a year.

In an attack highlighting the problems Washington and London face in recruiting and training Iraqi security forces, 13 police recruits were killed and 25 wounded in an ambush on a convoy of buses near the town of Baquba, north east of Baghdad, on Sunday.

Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker is leading a panel preparing recommendations for alternative strategies in Iraq and some have suggested the administration might use the group's findings as cover for an exit strategy. But the report will not be issued until after the November 7 election.

(Additional reporting by Claudia Parsons in Baghdad and Sophie Walker in London)

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