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Rumsfeld Visits US Troops in Tikrit, Mosul - 2003-09-05


U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has flown to Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and the northern city of Mosul to visit American troops. The secretary's visit to Iraq comes as gunmen opened fire on worshippers at a Sunni mosque in the capital, wounding three people.

Secretary Rumsfeld Friday thanked American soldiers for their sacrifices, saying he knows times have been difficult and they have lost friends in the U.S.-led operation to bring stability and prosperity to Iraq. But he said their efforts to rebuild the country are succeeding.

Mr. Rumsfeld arrived in Iraq Thursday amid heavy security, saying he wanted additional Iraqi or international troops to be deployed in the country, rather than additional U.S. forces. He said the U.S. troop presence in Iraq should be only temporary.

The commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq said he has sufficient troops for his current mission, but would need many more troops if the mission were expanded to include guarding Iraqi borders and countering terrorist attacks.

The remarks come as delegates to the United Nations examine a U.S. proposal to broaden responsibility for Iraqi reconstruction to include the United Nations, while retaining U.S. command over security operations. France, Germany and Russia have all said the resolutions needs several changes before they could support it.

Tensions remain high in Iraq one week after a bomb attack on the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf killed top Shiite leader, Ayatollah Mohamed Baqir al-Hakim, and more than 80 followers.

Gunmen, said to be Iraqis riding in a truck Friday, fired on worshippers at a mosque in northern Baghdad's Shaab district during morning prayers. The mosque's imam, or prayer leader, Walid al-Azawi, says three people were slightly wounded.

Imam Walid said the purpose of the attack was to create problems among Muslims. But he said people in the Muslim world are united and such attackers will not do any harm. Iraqi police and neighborhood militiamen took up positions around the mosque, and the Friday midday prayers were held without incident.

The Imam blamed the attack on what he called lackeys of colonialism whom he accused of trying to drive a wedge between Islam's sectarian groups. Some Iraqi's believe the attack in Najaf was due to rivalries within the country's large Shiite religious community, and fear a wave of reprisals by rival groups. Others says remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime are seeking to undermine stability and reconstruction in the country, while still others blame coalition forces for failing to restore security in Iraq four months after the end of major hostilities.

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