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US Senator Says More Troops Needed in Iraq


A senior U.S. senator visiting Baghdad is calling for more American troops to help stem sectarian violence in Iraq. VOA's Margaret Besheer reports from the Iraqi capital.

U.S. Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican with presidential ambitions in 2008, told reporters in Baghdad's Green Zone that such violence is the reason more American troops are needed in the capital and the restive al-Anbar province.

"The situation in my view remains serious," Sen. McCain said. "It requires us to have an injection of additional troops on the ground in order to bring the situation under control in order that the political process may proceed. All of us seek a political solution. I do not believe that there is possibility of having a political solution unless there is some kind of military stability on the ground."

The senator said the United States should deploy between five and 10 more brigades. A brigade can have as many as 3,000 soldiers, so he is suggesting 15 to 30,000 more troops.

That suggestion is counter to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that told President Bush last week that the United States should withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by early 2008.

Much of the violence in Baghdad is attributed to death squads and militias, such as the Mehdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

McCain said al-Sadr is a major obstacle to peace.

"I do not think there is any possibility of a stable situation in Baghdad until al-Sadr is either reduced or eliminated in his influence and the Mehdi army is defeated," he said.

The cleric is very powerful, his supporters hold 32 seats in the Iraqi parliament and he commands a 60,000 member militia.

Meanwhile, police say gunmen wearing Iraqi military uniforms kidnapped dozens of people from a busy commercial area in Baghdad. Officials say many shopkeepers and passersby in the Sinak district were among those abducted.

It is the second mass kidnapping in Baghdad in the past month. In November, gunmen stormed a building affiliated with the Higher Education Ministry taking dozens of people hostage.

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