Iraq backs President Bush's troop plan

Iraqi government would welcome an increase in US troop numbers in Baghdad expected to be announced on Wednesday by President Bush.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 23:01 IST

The Iraqi government would welcome an increase in US troop numbers in Baghdad expected to be announced on Wednesday by President George W Bush, the government spokesman said on Tuesday.

As US and Iraqi forces clashed with gunmen in central Baghdad, Ali al-Dabbagh said in the first official comment by the government on the expected US move that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed Bush's new strategy on Iraq.

"The Iraqi government does not object to an increase in coalition forces. The Iraqi government supports this trend," Dabbagh told a news conference.

Not far from the heavily fortified Green Zone compound where Dabbagh spoke, US and Iraqi forces battled insurgents in Haifa Street, a stronghold of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

US fighter jets screamed over the city with unusual intensity and military helicopters were seen hovering above Haifa Street, witnesses said.

Battling growing sectarian violence, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has announced a major security plan for Baghdad, vowing to crack down on violence on all sides.

Dabbagh said the raid in Haifa Street was aimed at eliminating "terrorist hideouts" and said US and Iraqi forces would avoid "mistakes" made in past plans to secure Baghdad, which is seen a key to pacifying the rest of Iraq.
"Any failure ... would lead to grave consequences and disasters. We cannot accept failure," he said.

Bush told US lawmakers he has decided to send about 20,000 more troops to Iraq in a plan to be announced on Wednesday.

The White House said Bush, who is reshuffling his commanders and diplomats in Iraq, would address Americans on his new Iraq plan on Wednesday at 9 pm.

Gordon Smith, one of Bush's fellow Republicans, was among senators who attended a White House meeting to discuss the president's emerging strategy for Iraq, which Democrats have called an escalation of the war.

Smith said Bush told him and several other senators that the plan for the additional troops had originated with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Maliki had made commitments that the Iraqi government and military would take steps to strengthen security in exchange for more US troops, Smith said.

Seeking to salvage the US mission in an unpopular war nearly four years after the invasion, Bush's new plan is also expected to include setting "benchmarks" for Maliki to meet, aimed at easing sectarian violence and stabilising the country.

It is also expected to contain a job creation program for Iraqis likely to cost more than $1 billion.

Maliki, a Shi'ite Islamist, has so far resisted US pressure to crack down on militias loyal to his fellow Shi'ites, which the United States has said are the most serious threat to Iraq. But in a speech on Saturday he vowed to crush illegal armed groups "regardless of sect or politics".

First Published: Jan 09, 2007 23:01 IST