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Polish Major killed in Iraq, Bush democracy call
( 2003-11-07 09:17) (Agencies)

Guerrillas shot and killed a Polish army officer south of Baghdad on Thursday, the first soldier to die from a multi-national division set up to relieve the pressure on U.S. forces trying to stabilize Iraq.

In Washington, U.S. President Bush demanded democracy and liberty in the Middle East -- naming even close ally Egypt -- in his latest bid to justify the war in Iraq which ousted Saddam Hussein as necessary to foster democracy.

Echoing Bush's theme, influential Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, an architect of the Iraq war, blasted Iran as "up to its eyeballs in terrorism" and said it was no surprise that what he called foreign terrorists were crossing into Iraq to fight U.S.-led forces.

"Success in Iraq is a threat to every tyrannical regime in the region, and they understand that," Perle said in a speech in Berlin.

Bush's call for greater Middle East democracy was met with scorn by some Arab commentators, however. They accused him of ignoring Israel's control of Palestinian territory, as well as launching war against Iraq.

The death of the Polish officer in Iraq came as Britain's top envoy to Baghdad warned of a "rough winter" ahead in the face of increasingly bold guerrilla violence.

The Pentagon began alerting tens of thousands of U.S. troops for Iraq duty next year, although officers hope to cut the total number of U.S. soldiers in the country by May.

The American military, which has borne the lion's share of casualties in the task force it leads in Iraq, said on Thursday two more of its soldiers had been killed.

Attackers firing guns and rocket-propelled grenades killed one U.S. soldier and wounded two others in an ambush south of Baghdad on Wednesday evening, U.S. Central Command said.

That attack brought to 139 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action since Washington declared on May 1 that major combat was over in the war that ousted Saddam.


Another U.S. soldier was killed on Thursday morning when his truck struck a land mine near the border with Syria, the Army said. It was not clear whether the mine was placed there by guerrillas or was part of security measures at the border.

The Polish major was killed after assailants opened fire on his convoy on Thursday morning and shot him in the neck as he traveled between two military camps, the Defense Ministry in Warsaw said. He died later from his wound.

In his foreign policy address to the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush challenged Iran and Syria by name as well as Egypt to adopt democracy, and vowed Washington would not support Arab states that rejected liberty.

The United States has accused both Syria and Iran of not doing enough to close their borders to what Washington calls terrorists crossing into Iraq to join the anti-U.S. fight.

Bush also declared a failure of past U.S. policy spanning 60 years in support of Middle East governments mot devoted to political freedom.

Khaled al-Maeena, editor-in-chief of the English-language Arab News daily in Saudi Arabia, asked how Bush could call for greater freedom while ignoring Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

Shibley Telhami, a Middle East expert at the University of Maryland in the United States, said Bush's biggest problem was that three years into his term of office Arabs simply did not trust him.

"When you don't trust the salesman, you don't trust the product, even if it's a good one," Telhami said.

Suicide bombings in Baghdad, rocket attacks on its headquarters and daily ambushes on its troops have made the past few weeks particularly tough for Iraq's occupying coalition.

"I believe we are in for a rough winter," Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's Special Representative to Iraq, was quoted as saying in Britain's Times newspaper on Thursday.

He said insurgents "want to try and close Baghdad down and make it look as though Iraq can't work with coalition forces," and added that British troops could still be in Iraq in 2005.


The mounting U.S. death toll and failure to find any weapons of mass destruction have put pressure on Bush, who will seek re-election next year.

The United Nations announced on Thursday it had withdrawn the last of its 20 foreign staff from Baghdad, but about 40 international employees still remained in northern Iraq.

The move followed the suicide bombing last week of Red Cross headquarters and three police stations in the capital in which at least 34 people died, and the devastating attack on the U.N. Baghdad headquarters on August 19 in which 22 people were killed.

Defense officials in Washington said on Thursday the Pentagon had begun to alert 43,000 U.S. Reserve and National Guard troops and around 20,000 Marines to prepare for duty in Iraq next year as part of a force rotation.

They said the Pentagon expected to cut the U.S. military presence in Iraq to about 105,000 by spring from the current 132,000 level.

A spokesman for Paul Bremer, head of Iraq's U.S.-led administration, said he was open to the creation of a new Iraqi force to help root out guerrillas and foreign militants.

But Bremer wanted to ensure such a force was not controlled by Iraqi political factions, was integrated into existing command structures and worked in coordination with U.S.-led troops, the spokesman said.

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