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Iran, Qaeda benefit from US in Iraq - congressman

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) The U.S. presence in Iraq is hurting the worldwide war on terrorism and benefits only Iran and al Qaeda, U.S. Rep. John Murtha said today.

''The only people who want us in Iraq are Iran and al-Qaeda,'' Murtha said on CBS's ''Face the Nation'' political talk show. ''And I talked to a top-level commander the other day and he said China wants us there also. Why? Because we're depleting our resources ...

our troop resources and our fiscal resources.

''... The war on terrorism is worldwide. In Iraq, it's a civil war,'' said Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat.

Murtha, who in November called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, said it was useless for the United States to advise Iraqis.

''One of the problems I see and frustrating things is our ambassador keeps giving advice to the Iraqis,'' Murtha said. ''Every time we give the Iraqis advice, they vote for someone else ... The Iraqis don't pay attention to our advice.'' The U.S. role in fighting terrorism around the world is being subverted by Iraq, said Murtha, who characterized the sectarian strife between Iraq's Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims as a civil war that must be settled internally.

Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran who retired from the Marines Corps Reserve as a colonel in 1990, said Iraq would do a better job of rooting out terrorists once U.S. troops leave the country.

''I'm convinced they know where they are, they know who they are,'' he said. ''But they won't tell us because they've turned against us. We've lost the hearts and minds of the people.'' The United Nations is scrutinizing Iran because of its nuclear research but Murtha said Tehran has become emboldened because of the U.S. focus in Iraq.

''We have a situation where our military is in such bad shape, it couldn't deploy to a second front,'' Murtha said. ''And the Iranians know this. North Korea knows it. China knows it. We're depleting our resources in Iraq.'' Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared on NBC's ''Meet the Press'' today and said the war in Iraq was going ''very, very well'' but Murtha was skeptical.

''Why would I believe him?'' he said. ''This administration, including the president, has mischaracterized this war for the last two years ... So why would I believe the chairman of the Joint Chiefs when he says things are going well?'' Reuters CH DB2314

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