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US, Britain step up calls for new Iraqi government

Written by: Staff
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Washington, Apr 7: The United States and Britain turned up the pressure on Iraqi leaders to form a government of national unity, with Britain's defence Minister saying delays only served to help terrorists.

''There is a great deal of urgency about this,'' John Reid yesterday said during a joint Pentagon briefing with US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

''I think it is the most important thing on the agenda in Iraq, which is to respond to the efforts of the terrorists to divide by terrorism by uniting through democracy.'' US President George W Bush, speaking after a weekend visit to Baghdad by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her British counterpart, Jack Straw, said Rice's message to Iraqi leaders was to ''get moving'' in resolving their differences.

''The (Iraqi) people want there to be a unity government. It requires leadership, for people to stand up and take the lead.

So we're working with them to get this unity government up and running,'' Bush said in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Amid sectarian violence, Iraqi leaders have been unable to fashion a new government since December 15 parliamentary elections.

US officials have urged the creation of a ''unity government'' distributing power among Iraq's rival Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

''Terrorists love a vacuum. I know that from my own experience in Northern Ireland. And it's the same throughout the world,'' Reid said.

''So the longer this goes, the more pleased the terrorists would be because it gives them the opportunity to intervene with acts of violence and, secondly, because they will claim it is an illustration of the inability of politicians in Iraq to come together,'' Reid added.

Rice and Straw told Iraqi leaders on Monday the lack of a government nearly four months after elections was undermining security.

More than three years after they led an invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the United States has about 132,000 troops there and Britain has around 9,000, fighting a tenacious insurgency.

'Easy for us'

Rumsfeld said he did not know when the Iraqis would form a new government.

''It's easy for us here in an air conditioned room to say, 'Gee, they ought to form a government.' And they should. And it would be a help if they did,'' Rumsfeld said.

''On the other hand, what they're doing is difficult.

They're negotiating. They're meeting with each other. They're talking to each other, as opposed to shooting at each other.'' Rumsfeld also said he spoke to Rice about her comment last week that the United States had made thousands of ''tactical errors'' in the Iraq war.

''I talked to Condi about that, and she pointed out the transcript, where she said she was speaking figuratively, not literally,'' Rumsfeld said.

In a radio interview on Tuesday, Rumsfeld said labeling as ''errors'' changes in military tactics showed a lack of understanding of warfare.

''Yes, I know we have made tactical errors, thousands of them,'' Rice said in Britain last Friday in answer to a question over whether lessons had been learned since the 2003 invasion.

There have been 2,344 US military deaths and 103 British deaths in the war.

Reuters

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