Rumsfeld says of latest flap 'This too will pass'

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WASHINGTON, Apr 18 (Reuters) US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has expressed confidence that the controversy over retired generals demanding his resignation will pass, and the White House emphasized its support for him.

Six retired generals, including two who commanded Army divisions in Iraq and one who headed efforts to train Iraqi security forces, have sharply criticized Rumsfeld, saying he disregarded military advice and ruled by intimidation.

''Well, you know, this, too, will pass,'' Rumsfeld said in a radio interview on Monday when asked about the retired generals and the news media attention given to their criticism.

Rumsfeld also thanked retired generals who defended him in recent days, including Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, who until last year was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the former Central Command chief. Myers asserted that it is not appropriate for uniformed military officers to issue public criticism of civilian leaders.

''There's always two sides to these things, and the sharper the criticism comes sometimes the sharper the defense comes from people who don't agree with the critics,'' Rumsfeld told ''The Rush Limbaugh Show.'' President George W. Bush on Friday gave Rumsfeld an emphatic vote of confidence, saying that the 73-year-old Pentagon chief's ''energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period,'' and that he ''has my full support and deepest appreciation.'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Monday, ''There are many challenges that we face, and the president has tasked Secretary Rumsfeld and our commanders to meet those challenges, and they are meeting those challenges.'' Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said Rumsfeld was scheduled to meet today with a group of defense analysts and military commentators who regularly appear on news programs, and that U.S.

commanders in Iraq also would take part by teleconference.

Whitman did not identify which analysts and commentators would be involved, but said 12 to 15 usually attend such sessions.

The Pentagon has held these kinds of meetings with analysts and commentators whose views often are in the media, and in the past has flown some to Iraq.

REUTERS PDS PM0435

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