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Understanding, Skepticism Greet Bush Iraq Speech

President Bush's announcement that he is sending some 20,000 additional troops to Iraq has received mixed reviews around the world - ranging from support and understanding to widespread skepticism. VOA's Sonja Pace summarizes world reaction in this report from London.

President Bush's new strategy for Iraq was the focus of intense media attention for days before his actual speech in Washington Wednesday evening.

His plan to send an additional 20,000 plus troops to Iraq to try to quell the insurgency and sectarian violence thus came as no surprise. And, it has gotten mixed reviews.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett welcomed the announcement, but also said Britain would make its own judgments and decisions.

"It is not our intention at the present time to send more troops," said Beckett. Speaking to reporters, Beckett said Britain is working to progressively turn over control to Iraqi forces in the area British forces operate in, namely in Basra in southern Iraq.

British newspapers were much more critical. The Independent says George Bush is sending his soldiers into the "graveyard of Iraq," while the Guardian newspaper calls the President's new strategy his "last throw of the dice."

Reactions inside Iraq have been mixed as well. Some senior officials welcomed the decision, but speaking to reporters in Baghdad, government spokesman Aly Dabagh, focused mainly on what Iraqis will and must do.

He said preparations continue for a full transfer of security control and responsibility, when the situation allows. He said the foreign troops would remain under the control of Iraqi forces, adding that when the Iraqis are ready they will ask the multinational forces to leave.

As expected, there was opposition from supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, whose Mahdi army militia has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence.

Mixed reactions too from average Iraqis. Some said they hoped the situation would improve, but VOA reporter Jim Randle spoke with several people in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil and many, like a man who gave his name only as Yussuf, were doubtful the situation would get better. "We are not optimistic about the coming of (more) American soldiers to Iraq, because nothing will change the problems in Iraq - nothing," said Yussuf.

That skepticism prevails elsewhere in the Middle East, as VOA's Challiss McDonough reported from Cairo. "Talking to analysts around the Middle East, the most common thread that I'm hearing is that people don't believe there can be a military solution to the crisis in Iraq," McDonough said. "They say the only solution will be a political one and that that needs to be approached regionally."

In Asia, there was strong support from President Bush's staunch ally, Australian Prime Minister John Howard. "We've got to make a judgment as to what would the consequences of leaving in circumstances, which are seen as a defeat for the West," Howard said.

However, the reaction from China was circumspect. Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao spoke to reporters in Beijing. The spokesman said the development of the situation in Iraq affects the whole region. China hopes Iraq can "realize peace and stability at an early date." But the Chinese spokesman said reaching that goal depends first and foremost on Iraqis themselves.