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Iraqi Defense Minister Promises Tough Measures to Deal with Insurgents - 2004-06-25


U.S. forces on Friday carried out their third airstrike against suspected terrorist hideouts in the western Iraqi town of Fallujah. An upsurge in violence clouds preparations for the handover of power in five days to Iraq's interim government.

Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem al-Shaalan told a Baghdad news conference he has tough security plans to deal with the violence.

Mr. al-Shaalan says the measures could include a state of emergency for some provinces, including Baghdad. But he says no decision has been made yet.

His remarks come a day after a series of bloody attacks across Iraq claimed more than 90 victims.

In Washington, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, told Congress Friday he does not expect the violence in Iraq to let up any time soon, but he says no more U.S. troops are needed to deal with it.

"I expect the increased violence against the coalition and against Iraqi citizens will continue past the 30 June transfer of sovereignty," he said. "But despite these challenges, I believe we are on the right path, helping Iraqis become fully capable of providing for their own security."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the terrorists are out to destroy Iraq's transition.

"We know they'd like nothing more than to shape the minds of Americans and Iraqis that this new government is a failure," he said. "And we know they are going to try to everything they can to destabilize the country leading to elections at the end of this year."

That could backfire as six out of ten Iraqis now say they have confidence in the interim government that was named last month to lead Iraq through the transition period. An independent poll conducted for the U.S.-led coalition show increasing Iraqi support for their interim government and a continuing distrust of the U.S.-led coalition.

The results give President Bush a public relations boost as he heads to Europe for summits of European Union and NATO leaders. He is expected to urge EU allies to ease Iraq's foreign debts. President Bush also will seek NATO's favorable response to Iraq's request for NATO's technical aid and training help for its security forces.

Washington's first ambassador to post-Saddam Hussein Iraq heads to Baghdad next week to assume his new duties. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he will soon name a new envoy to Iraq.

"I will be naming a special representative shortly, and his duty station will be Baghdad," Mr. Annan announced.

But he is still concerned the deteriorating security situation in Iraq will prevent him from sending more U.N. staffers there for now.

In Iraq, U.S. forces hit a suspected terrorist hideout in the western town of Fallujah, the third airstrike this week. Military officials say more than 20 people were killed in the attack.

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