Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 1 News List

US official `misspoke' about Iraq

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

A senior US State Department official apologized on Sunday night for saying that the US has acted with "arrogance" and "stupidity" in its campaign in Iraq.

The apology from Alberto Fernandez, director of the office of press and public diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in Washington, involved a comment that he had made during an interview conducted in Arabic and broadcast on Saturday on al-Jazeera, the Arab TV network.

In the 35-minute interview, Fernandez, who speaks Arabic fluently, said, "History will decide what role the United States played."

According to a translation by CNN, he said that while the US had tried its best, its role might be criticized by future historians "because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq."

After news of the remarks spread on Sunday, US officials said they did not reflect the administration's views.

"I can only assume his remarks must have been mistranslated," said a senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak for attribution. "Those comments obviously don't reflect our position."

In a statement released on Sunday night by the State Department, Fernandez said: "Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on al-Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase `There has been arrogance and stupidity by the US in Iraq.' This represents neither my views, or those of the State Department. I apologize."

Fernandez has a reputation for outspokenness that predates his comments to al-Jazeera. He is responsible for getting top State Department officials into the Arab news media, however, his own popularity in the Arab news media has been bolstered by his command of Arabic and his willingness to speak passionately about issues.

Fernandez's interview may open him to criticism from supporters of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq. But some Iraqi lawmakers welcomed the remarks.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, said more US officials should be willing to be self-critical about missteps in Iraq.

"I have been expecting American officials, someday, last year, this year, to say something about this, that this policy has not worked," Othman said. "It has been a failure. They should admit it before it is too late."

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