Iraq could spark broad religious conflict in region: Spy Chief | india | Hindustan Times
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Iraq could spark broad religious conflict in region: Spy Chief

A civil war in Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 15:17 IST

A civil war in Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, pitting the region's rival Islamic sects against each other, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said, in an unusually frank assessment.

"If chaos were to descend upon Iraq or the forces of democracy were to be defeated in that country ... This would have implications for the rest of the Middle East region and, indeed, the world," Negroponte said on Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats.

Negroponte served as US ambassador to Baghdad before taking over as the nation's top intelligence official last April.

Iraqis have faced a chain of attacks and reprisals since bombs destroyed the gold dome of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra last week.

Hundreds, if not thousands, have died, including more than 65 who were killed yesterday by suicide attackers, car bombers and insurgents firing mortars.

President Bush condemned the surge in violence and said Iraqis must make a choice between "a free society or a society dictated ... By evil people who will kill innocents."

Negroponte acknowledged that a civil war would be a "serious setback" to the global war on terror.

"The consequences for the people of Iraq would be catastrophic," he said. "Clearly, it would seriously jeopardise the democratic political process on which they are presently embarked. And one can only begin to imagine what the political outcomes would be."