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Senator Biden Warns of Growing Sectarian Militias in Iraq


A key U.S. senator says sectarian militias are growing in Iraq and is reaffirming a plan he says will break the vicious cycle of violence and create conditions for multi-national forces to withdraw from the country.

Senator Biden is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been a frequent critic of how the Bush administration has handled the war in Iraq.

Biden, who recently returned from his seventh trip to Iraq, says violence between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims has surpassed the insurgency and foreign terrorists as the main security threat.

"Sectarian militias are the main instrument of that violence," he said. "Instead of disarming, they are growing and they are growing for a very basic, simple reason. Young men have no jobs. The militias give them a steady pay and a nice gun to carry."

Earlier this year, Biden proposed a plan to divide Iraq into three regions, giving the Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunnis their own territory.

Under the proposal, the central government in Baghdad would be left in charge of common interests, such as border security and the distribution of oil revenue.

The plan also calls for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdrawing most of them from Iraq by the end of 2007.

The White House has called Biden's proposal a plan for "partition," and has rejected it, saying it is an idea the Iraqi people do not support.

Senator Biden says his plan would diffuse the violence and maintain a unified and more peaceful Iraq by decentralizing it.

"At best the course we are on in Iraq has no happy end in sight," he explained. "At worst it leads to a terrible civil war that turns into a regional war and leaves a new haven for fundamentalist jihadists in the heart of the Middle East. This plan offers a way to bring our troops home, protect our security interests, and preserve Iraq as a unified country."

President Bush has pledged the United States will not abandon the Iraqi people, will continue to support the democratic government and train Iraqi forces who are gradually taking over security from U.S.-led coalition troops.

Billions of dollars are being spent on reconstruction efforts and U.S. advisors are helping the Iraqi government fight corruption and build a modern economy.

Biden argues that if the government in Baghdad cannot bring security and properly govern the country, the Iraqi military may someday takeover the nation.

"What is going to happen folks, the most likely outcome, and this is going to get me in trouble, the most likely outcome is when we do stand up their army, and we are making progress in standing up their army, you are going to find six months from now, a year from now, two years from now, the army saying there is no civilian control," he explained. "We must take over. We will have supplanted one strong man for another, hopefully one that is more benign."

Senator Biden proposes increasing reconstruction aid to Iraq, to create a significant number of jobs and improve the living conditions of the Iraqi people.