Top Bush administration officials warn that attacks on members of Iraq's new interim government are likely to continue, as the U.S.-led coalition prepares to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis. The comments follow the assassinations of two members of the new Iraqi government in as many days.
Secretary of State Colin Powell says Iraq is likely to face a long, hot bloody summer.
In a series of interviews on American television, he emphasized this is a dangerous period. He told the Fox News Sunday program that everything possible is being done to defeat the insurgency that threatens Iraq's new leaders, but acknowledged it is difficult to protect an entire government.
"Very brave and bold and courageous Iraqi leaders have stepped forward into positions of responsibility," he said. "And these murderers are trying to assassinate them to undercut this new government. But they are not going to be successful. We are going to stay the course."
On CNN's Late Edition, White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was also asked about the surge in attacks on Iraqi officials. She said it has long been understood that the weeks surrounding the transfer of sovereignty would be difficult.
"These are very sad events, when Iraqi patriots are gunned down by these traitors and by these terrorists," she said. "And indeed, there will continue to be violence, because these are people who have no future in a free Iraq."
Earlier, a top Iraqi education official was shot dead as he left his home in Baghdad. Saturday, insurgents assassinated Iraq's deputy foreign minister.
On NBC's Meet the Press, Iraq's interim president called the killings very tragic. Ghazi al-Yawar said the insurgents want to take Iraq back to, what he called, "the dark days."
He said security is a top issue for the new government, but it will take time for Iraq to rebuild its security forces. "We are practical. We are realistic," said Mr. al-Yawar. "We know that we lack enough security forces and capabilities, in order to depend 100 percent on our forces."
In an interview on ABC's This Week, the Iraqi interim president turned down President Bush's offer to tear down the Abu Ghraib prison. Once the site of torture chambers under Saddam Hussein, it has gained new notoriety for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners under American detention.
Ghazi al-Yawar said the prison cost millions of dollars to build, and the Iraqis cannot spare the money to replace it. "We are people that need every single dollar we have, in order to rebuild our country, instead of demolishing and rebuilding," he said.
When informed of the comments of the Iraqi official, Secretary of State Powell noted President Bush made clear the final decision of the fate of Abu Graib would rest with Iraq's interim government. Mr. Powell said, if they want to keep the facility, they will.