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Muted Reaction to Bush Address Amid Criticism of US Iraq Policy

There has been muted reaction around the world to President Bush's State of the Union speech Tuesday, amid some support and continued widespread criticism of the U.S. policy in Iraq. VOA's Sonja Pace sums up reaction from London.

British newspapers took note of President Bush's speech, but with little comment. Most of the major dailies focused on the president's plan to reduce American dependence on foreign oil by cutting fuel consumption by 20 percent during the next decade and moving to alternative fuels.

The Daily Telegraph noted this could be one area where the president may be able to work with the new Democrat-controlled congress. The headline in the Independent called it an attempt to revive the Bush presidency.

The president's energy proposals have received praise from some environmentalists, while others said they are too little, too late.

In his address to Congress, Mr. Bush again defended his Iraq strategy and warned of the consequences if the United States does not prevail. He asked Congress to give his new plan, which includes sending in about 22,000 additional troops, a chance to work.

In Baghdad, VOA's Jim Randle spoke with several Iraqis about the president's plan, including lawmaker Maysoon al Damluji. The reaction was skeptical.

"A number of plans were put forward previously and they did not work," Damluji said. "I think the ordinary Iraqi will believe it when they see it."

Skepticism is also being expressed by the leader of Britain's opposition Liberal Democrat party, Menzies Campbell.

"Here we have President Bush embarking on a change of strategy, but one which is questioned very considerably by Republicans, his own party, and hotly opposed by the Democrats," Campbell said.

Campbell is calling for a controlled withdrawal of British forces from Iraq by October.

Speaking a few hours later in parliament, Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected such a notion.

"For us to set an arbitrary timetable ... it is simply saying that we will pull British troops out in October come what may," Mr. Blair said. "That would send a most disastrous signal to the people we are fighting in Iraq."

In Asia, there was some support for President Bush's Iraq strategy. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the plan to boost American troop strength in Iraq demonstrates determination to stabilize that country.

At the same time, there was a stinging rebuke from Japan's defense minister, Fumio Kyuma, who called the American decision to invade Iraq a mistake and said Japan has not yet decided how much longer it will support Iraq reconstruction efforts.

Japan has withdrawn its ground troops from southern Iraq, but continues air support for humanitarian efforts.