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US to target Al-Qaeda's new Iraq chief: Bush

US President George W Bush vowed that Al-Zarqawi's successor as Iraq chief of Al-Qaeda would be on hit list.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 10:11 IST

President George W Bush vowed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's successor as Al-Qaeda's chief in Iraq would be 'on our list' of targets. He also said US troops must stay for now to help secure the country.

Confronting low public approval ratings and an increasingly unpopular war, Bush spokeon Mondayafter a day of talks with his national security team about how to capitalize on the death of Zarqawi and the creation of a Iraqi unity government.

Zarqawi, mastermind of some of the bloodiest bombings since the US-led invasion in 2003, died last Wednesday during a US air strike on an Al-Qaeda hide-out.

The group named a successor, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, little known in the West.

Asked about Muhajir, Bush suggested he could suffer the same fate as his predecessor. "I think the successor to Zarqawi is going to be on our list to bring to justice," he said.

But while hailing Zarqawi's death as a 'major blow' to Al-Qaeda, Bush said: "I fully recognise that's not going to end the war." Al-Qaeda threatened revenge attacks, and insurgent bombings killed at least 34 people in Iraq on Monday.

Zarqawi's death and the completion of Iraq's unity government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had raised hopes among some Americans of a US troop drawdown.

Bush, who has resisted offering any timetable for bringing the 131,000 US Troops home, made clear that American forces must stay to provide security but said Maliki and his government will make an assessment of their security needs.

"Whatever we do will be based upon the conditions on the ground," Bush said, turning aside a question about possible troop reductions.

First Published: Jun 13, 2006 09:57 IST