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Top Republican in US Senate Sees 'Long War' in Iraq - 2004-04-30


The top Republican in the U.S. Senate is predicting what he calls "a long war" to establish stability and security in Iraq.

Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee Friday offered an unusually sober prediction for a Republican leader about the situation in Iraq, one year after President Bush announced an end to major combat operations there.

"What is important is that people recognize, whether you are civilian or whether you are military or whether you are government, that this is going to be a long fight, and it is a fight," he said. "It is going to be a long war, and I would say it is not just a war now, but it is going to continue to be a war that is going to take patience, it is going to take continued investment in terms of personnel and resources by the taxpayer and by the United States of America."

In comments to radio reporters, Mr. Frist sought to remind Americans that the United States will continue to face challenges in Iraq after it hands over sovereignty to Iraqis in two months. The U.S. military is expected to maintain control of security after the transfer.

"The reality is that it is going to be a difficult next year, and a difficult next year after that in all likelihood. That is what we know today and that is simply what we did not know a year ago," he said.

The past month has been the deadliest for U.S. forces in Iraq, with more than 120 killed.

The rising death toll and continued violence have led congressional critics of the administration's handling of Iraq to become more vocal. Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, is among them.

"It is staggeringly clear that this administration did not understand the consequences of invading Iraq a year ago, and it is staggeringly clear that this administration has no effective plan to cope with the aftermath of the war and the functional collapse of Iraq," he said.

Senator Frist expressed his concern about the criticism from Senate Democrats. "I encourage them to speak freely, to express themselves, but if they do it in such a way that it undercuts our rather unified commitment to winning this war and war on terror, I think it can be a disservice," he said.

On a separate issue, Senator Frist says he expects President Bush's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq to be confirmed next week. He predicts overwhelming support for John Negroponte, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Ambassador Negroponte's nomination and sent it to the full Senate for consideration Thursday.