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US Will Not Pull Forces Out of Iraq, Repeats Defense Secretary

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has again made clear the Bush administration has no intention of ordering U.S. forces out of Iraq despite mounting casualties from the continuing guerrilla war there.

Mr. Rumsfeld says the United States must not let the world think it will retreat from a fight whenever there are American casualties.

Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington, Mr. Rumsfeld's comment came as he recalled what he told President Bush before accepting the Defense Secretary's post.

"I said I was personally of the opinion that it was unhelpful for our country if the world believed that every time we got our nose bloodied, we tucked in and came home," said Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld made no specific mention of the situation in Iraq in his remarks.

But nearly 300 Americans have died there since U.S.-led forces invaded last March. Most of the fatalities have occurred since the end of major combat May 1, some from hostile fire, others from accidents.

Critics have charged the Pentagon did not properly prepare for the amount of resistance that would be faced by U.S. forces in the postwar period. Some have called for more troops to be sent to Iraq, both American and foreign.

But another senior U.S. advisor involved in security affairs in Iraq disputes the notion that the situation there is spiraling out of control with increasing violence.

"The image that you get to some degree in the United States that this is sort of like Mogadishu or Beirut during the fighting is just wrong," said Walter Slocombe, a former top Pentagon official who is now serving in Baghdad as senior advisor for defense and security affairs on the U.S.-led provisional administration. "It is dangerous and it needs to be improved and we need to work on it and there is a level of ordinary crime in addition to whatever political stuff there is that needs to be brought down. But in terms of day-to-day life for ordinary Iraqis, they go around where they want to go."

Mr. Slocombe's references to Somalia and Lebanon were to two occasions where U.S. forces were rapidly withdrawn from international missions after sustaining casualties.