Sunday, August 26, 2007

Iraqi Leader Lashes Back at US Critics

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's beleaguered prime minister on Sunday lashed out at American critics who have called for his ouster, saying Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Carl Levin need to "come to their senses."

Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting to hold his government together, issued a series of stinging ripostes against a variety of foreign officials who recently have spoken negatively about his leadership. But those directed at Democrats Clinton, of New York, and Levin, of Michigan, were most strident.

"There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. They should come to their senses," al-Maliki said at a news conference.

Al-Maliki launched the verbal counteroffensive in the final days before the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due in Washington to report to Congress on progress in Iraq since the introduction of 30,000 more America troops.

The Shiite prime minister said a negative report by Petraeus would not cause him to change course, although he said he expected that the U.S. general would "be supportive of the government and will disappoint the politicians who are relying on it" to be negative.

Al-Maliki also criticized some U.S. military actions.

"Concerning American raids on Shula (a northern Shiite neighborhood) and Sadr City (the Shiite slum enclave in east Baghdad). There were big mistakes committed in these operations. The terrorist himself should be targeted not his family.

"When they want to detain one person, they should not kill 10 others. These are mistakes which we have to deal with. We will not allow the detaining of innocent people. Only the criminals should be detained," the angry al-Maliki declared.

Two nights ago the U.S. military raided the Shula neighborhood and said it killed eight "terrorists" who had attacked an American patrol from rooftops. Some Iraqis reported many civilians were killed and wounded.

U.S. forces also are routinely raiding Sadr City, often calling in helicopter fire. The U.S. says it targets only Shiite militia fighters. Iraqi officials regularly report civilians killed in the raids.....

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