Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 6 News List

US chief in Iraq warns guerrilla attacks on reconstruction agenda will increase

REUTERS , BAGHDAD

Iraq's US governor Paul Bremer warned yesterday guerrillas would step up attacks to stop reconstruction efforts and said several hundred foreign militants had entered the country.

Bremer vowed in an interview with Britain's Times newspaper that US-led forces would not be driven out of Iraq by the militants because the price of failure was too high for the country itself and the Middle East.

"We're going to have increased attacks and increased terrorism because the terrorist can see the reconstruction dynamic is moving in our direction," said Bremer, adding the foreign fighters were from Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

"It will be more of a problem in the months ahead unless the intelligence gets better," he said.

Washington, which has lost 150 soldiers to hostile fire since President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 1, blames the attacks on former president Saddam Hussein's supporters and foreign fighters, including al-Qaeda members.

"Consequences of us not succeeding here would be very grave. They are for the Iraqis fatal, perhaps for the Middle East almost as fatal," Bremer told the Times.

He was quoted as saying an Iraqi "special force" to counter rising militancy would probably not include former members of Saddam's intelligence services, but it was "not impossible."

Sympathizing with the Iraqi people, he said it was "not comfortable being occupied," but added: "And it's not comfortable being an occupying power."

Iraq is high on the campaign agenda as Bush seeks re-election next year. The latest major opinion poll, released by The Washington Post and ABC News on Nov. 2, showed his approval rating was at 56 percent -- down from topping 90 percent after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Several loud explosions echoed across Baghdad on Sunday night and police said a mortar bomb hit a house in the city center, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

It appeared to be the fourth mortar attack by guerrillas in a week on the capital.

Guerrillas have grown increasingly bold in launching mortar attacks on the US-led administration on the west side of the Tigris River. No one has been killed, but several personnel in the US-led coalition have been wounded.

US warplanes bombed targets in Iraq on Sunday in air strikes that resumed last week for the first time in more than six months after the recent shooting down of three US helicopters.

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