Iraqi leader: US report is 'very dangerous'

Updated: 2006-12-10 21:04

Baghdad - The Iraqi president on Sunday harshly criticized the bipartisan report recommending changes to US war policies, saying it contained some "very dangerous" recommendations that would undermine the sovereignty of Iraq.

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Jalal Talabani said the report "is not fair, is not just and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution."

He singled out the report's call for the approval of a de-Baathification law that could allow thousands of officials from Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath party to return to their jobs.

"There is an article to bring back the Baathists to the political scene, which is very dangerous," he said in an interview with reporters at his office in Baghdad.

The Kurdish leader also criticized the call for increasing the number of US troops embedded to train Iraqis from 3,000 to 4,000 currently to 10,000 to 20,000.

"It is not respecting the desire of the Iraqi people to control its army and to be able to rearm and train Iraqi forces under the leadership of the Iraqi government," he said.

He said the Iraqi government planned to send a letter to US President George W. Bush "expressing our views about the main issues" in the report, although he would not elaborate.

Talabani, sitting at his desk with an Iraqi flag and bookshelves as a backdrop, was the most senior government official to weigh in against the report released Wednesday as criticism of the recommendations mounted among leaders of the governing Shiite and Kurdish parties.

An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday the Iraqi leader had reservations about the report but has yet to form a detailed response.

Sunni Arabs said they agree with the assessment of Iraq's problems in the report by a commission headed by former Republican Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, but not the proposals to fix them.

Talabani said the Iraqis were not intimidated by the report's threat to reduce political, military or economic support if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress. The report said Iraqi leaders have failed to deliver better security or political compromises that would reduce violence, and it implied that a four-month joint US-Iraqi military campaign to reduce violence in Baghdad is hopeless.

"I believe that President George Bush is a brave and committed man and he is adamant to support the Iraqi government until they've reached success," he said. "Setting these conditions we see it as an insult to the people of Iraq."

Bush has given the report a lukewarm reception and said he will weigh its recommendations along with other possible courses of action.

The recommendations, which are not binding, also have met opposition from some in the United States for the suggestion to withdraw nearly all combat brigades from Iraq by early 2008.

Talabani said the date was realistic if the Iraqi government is given more responsibility for the security of the country.

"If we can agree with the US government to give us the right of organizing, training, arming our armed forces, it will be possible in 2008 (for US-led forces) to start to leave Iraq and to go back home," he said. "I have said many times that we need only two years."

Kurds have been the strongest critics so far of the report and Talabani said he backed a statement by the president of the Kurdish region who objected to recommendations on sharing the oil wealth, reinstating Saddam loyalists in their old government jobs and giving Iraq's neighbors a role in efforts to end the violence.

A statement by the governmental De-Baathification Commission also denounced the Baker-Hamilton report as "wrong and untrue" for its assertion that purging the government of Baathists robbed state institutions of professionals, adding that such a view posed a threat to national reconciliation because it adopted the stand of the Baathists themselves.

"If you read this report, one would think that it is written for a young, small colony that they are imposing these conditions on," Talabani said. "We are a sovereign country."

In one point of agreement, however, Talabani said Iraq already has initiated talks with Syria and Iran on gaining help in tackling the problems facing his country, and he plans to visit Damascus soon.


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