Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Iraq Study Group report draws mixed global response

AFP , PARIS

A US report on the country's strategy in Iraq was welcomed by some governments on Wednesday, but its call for talks with Iran and Syria and for action on the Arab-Israeli conflict drew criticism elsewhere.

The British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett welcomed the report as "broadly in line" with British thinking but stressed that London wants time to digest the report.

In Germany, Berlin's minister for German-US relations said that a change in policy in Iraq was urgently needed.

"The commission is proposing a change in course that is urgently required," Karsten Voigt said. "I believe that the US Congress will come under great pressure to implement the recommendations."

He added, however, that it would be extremely difficult for Bush to talk directly with Iran and Syria. In the case of Iran, such a move would require the US to abandon its policy of regime change in Tehran.

A spokesman for the Dutch foreign ministry, meanwhile, said that if the report's recommendations yielded "applicable solutions, then it is positive... and we can encourage it."

"It is important not to pull out of the country too quickly, and to invest in training the Iraqi police and army," spokesman Dirk Jan Vermeij said.

A senior Israeli official expressed concern at the calls in Baker's report for redoubled US efforts in the Middle East peace process.

"This report is worrisome for Israel, particularly because, for the first time, it mentions the question of the `right of return' for the Palestinian refugees of 1948," said the official, who declined to be named, referring to Palestinians who fled or were driven out of territory that later became Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas however welcomed the calls to revive the dormant peace process.

"This report analyzed things well," Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said. "Resolving the Palestinian problem will open the way toward resolving all of the problems in the Middle East."

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas echoed the sentiment.

"We hope that American politicians will learn the lesson of this report and will realize that their policies have failed," spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that "the decision to withdraw [from Iraq] should not need any negotiation with Iran or other countries in the region."

"It seems that at least some parts of the American administration policy towards Iraq is considered wrong," he said.

The Iraqi problem "will be solved through withdrawal," he said.

In Iraq itself, Baker's call to reduce US support to the country if Baghdad fails to improve security drew a sour response from politicians, who said Washington had an obligation to back their government.

"The US calls itself an occupying force in Iraq and, according to the Geneva Conventions, if you are an occupier then you are responsible for the country," said parliamentarian Mahmud Othman, a Kurd.

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