Iraqi FM warns against U.S. withdrawal.

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Aug 21, 2006
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By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer
13 minutes ago

BAGHDAD - Iraq's foreign minister warned on Monday that a quick American military withdrawal from the country could lead to civil war and the collapse of the government, as pressure on the Bush administration for a pullout grows.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd from northern Iraq, also said Turkey has massed 140,000 soldiers on its border with northern Iraq, where the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, has bases and launches attacks on Turkish forces.

"Turkey's fears are legitimate but such things can be discussed," Zebari said. "The perfect solution is the withdrawal of the Turkish forces from the borders."

He said there had been no "Turkey military violation until now," citing artillery shelling and Turkish surveillance overflights.

Attacks in Baghdad killed 13 people as prominent Shiite and Sunni politicians called on Iraqi civilians to take up arms to defend themselves after a weekend of violence that claimed more than 220 lives.

The burst of violence comes at a sensitive time. U.S. forces are waging offensives in and around Baghdad aimed at uprooting militants and bringing calm to the capital, and a progress report to Congress is due on July 15. At the same time, several Republican congressman have joined calls for a withdrawal from Iraq.

Zebari said earlier that Iraqis "understand the huge pressure that will increase more and more in the United States" ahead of the progress report by the U.S. ambassador and top commander in Iraq.

"We have held discussion with members of Congress and explained to them the dangers of a quick pull out (from Iraq) and leaving a security vacuum," Zebari said. "The dangers could be a civil war, dividing the country, regional wars and the collapse of the state.

"In our estimations, until Iraqi forces are ready, there is a responsibility on the United States to stand with the (government) as the forces are being built," he said.

The calls for the arming of civilians to fight insurgents reflected the growing frustration with Iraqi security forces' inability to prevent extremists' attacks.

The governor of Salahuddin province announced he had detained the police chief of Armili, a Shiite town that was hit in the most devastating of the weekend attacks, a suicide truck bomber who killed at least 130 people.

Gov. Hamad Hmoud Shagti told The Associated Press that the police chief was under investigation for security failures and that 250 police were sent to Armili, a town of 26,000 people with longtime tensions between Shiites and Sunnis that one lawmaker said had only 30 police officers before the attack.

The latest attacks in Baghdad followed a surge of bloodshed in the capital on Sunday, when around 60 Iraqis were killed in bombings, shootings and kidnap-slayings.

A roadside bomb exploded in the central Nahda district in the morning, killing a passer-by and wounding three others. Several hours later, an explosive-wired car detonated in the same area, killing two people and wounding six, a police official said.

In southern Baghdad, a suicide bomber set off an explosives-packed car into a joint Iraqi army-police patrol, killing four passers-by and a soldier in the violence-torn district of Dora, police said.

Around dawn, police discovered gunmen trying to plant bombs near the security wall surrounding the Sunni district of Azamiyah. In a gunbattle that followed, two soldiers and two policemen were killed, police said. There were no immediate reports about the casualties among the gunmen.

Also Monday, a dead body with bullet wounds and torture marks was found dumped in a street in the western district of Mansour, an apparent victim of sectarian death squads, police said. The police officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Iraqi commanders say U.S. and Iraqi troops are making progress in a three-pronged security sweep launched in mid-June — one in Baghdad, another to the northeast in Baqouba and the third to the south. The offensives on Baghdad's doorsteps aim to uproot al-Qaida militants and other insurgents using the regions to plan attacks in the capital.

But Saturday's attack on Armili indicated extremists were moving further north to strike at unprotected regions, and the devastation wreaked there sparked anger at Iraqi security forces for failing to stop them.

The attack was among the deadliest in Iraq in months, though there was still confusion over the death toll.

Two police officers — Col. Sherzad Abdullah and Col. Abbas Mohammed Amin — said 150 people were killed. Abbas al-Bayati, a Shiite Turkoman lawmaker, told reporters in Baghdad that 130 had died. Most of the town's inhabitants are Shiites from the Turkoman ethnic minority

In the absence of enough security forces, al-Bayati said authorities should help residents "arm themselves" for their own protection.

The call for civilians to take up arms in their own defense was echoed Sunday by the country's Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, who said the government should provide communities with money, weapons and training and "regulate their use by rules of behavior."

"People have a right to expect from the government and security agencies protection for their lives, land, honor and property," al-Hashemi said in a statement. "But in the case of (their) inability, the people have no choice but to take up their own defense."

Another prominent Sunni lawmaker, Adnan al-Dulaimi, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had failed to provide services and security but he stopped short of saying his followers would seek to topple the Shiite-led government in a no-confidence vote.

The CBS Evening News reported Saturday that a large block of Sunni Iraqi politicians will ask for a parliamentary vote of no-confidence against al-Maliki's government on July 15.

"The situation has become terribly bad," al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press. "All options are open for us. We are going to study the situation thoroughly, and we are going to look into the possible measures which go with the interests of the Iraqi people. We will also consider whether to keep on with the government or not."

But Iraq's national security adviser, a Shiite, insisted that the government still enjoyed broad support and he warned against any effort to replace al-Maliki, telling CNN's Late Edition that the result would be a "hurricane in Iraq."

The idea of organizing local communities for their own defense has caught on here in recent months following the success of Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar province that took up arms to help drive al-Qaida from their towns and villages.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said they hope to replicate the "Anbar model" elsewhere in the country, albeit under government supervision and control.

U.S. commanders have long believed the key to restoring security was the ability of Iraqi forces to hold on to areas cleared by American troops. Several senior U.S. officers have questioned whether the Iraqi police and army were capable of preventing insurgents from returning once the Americans had left.

Local defense forces would offer a way to compensate for weaknesses in the Iraqi police and army, but without careful controls, the system could backfire by promoting more militias in a country already awash in weapons.

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