By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer 27 minutes ago
The Iraqi president said Sunday the bipartisan U.S. report calling for a new approach to the war offered dangerous recommendations that would undermine his country's sovereignty and were "an insult to the people of Iraq."
President Jalal Talabani was the most senior government official to take a stand against the Iraq Study Group report, which has come under criticism from leaders of the governing Shiite and Kurdish parties.
He said the report "is not fair, is not just, and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution."
He singled out the report's call for the approval of a de-Baathification law that could allow thousands of officials from Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath party to return to their jobs.
The Kurdish leader also criticized the call for increasing the number of U.S. troops embedded to train Iraqis from 3,000 to 4,000 currently to 10,000 to 20,000.
"It is not respecting the desire of the Iraqi people to control its army and to be able to rearm and train Iraqi forces under the leadership of the Iraqi government," he said.
He said the Iraqi government planned to send a letter to President Bush "expressing our views about the main issues" in the report, although he would not elaborate.
An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday the Iraqi leader had reservations about the report but has yet to form a detailed response.
Sunni Arabs said they agree with the assessment of Iraq's problems in the report by the commission headed by former Republican Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, but not the proposals to fix them.
Talabani said Iraqis were not intimidated by the report's threat to reduce political, military or economic support if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress. The report said Iraqi leaders have failed to deliver better security or political compromises that would reduce violence, and it implied that a four-month joint U.S.-Iraqi military campaign to reduce violence in Baghdad is hopeless.
"I believe that President George Bush is a brave and committed man and he is adamant to support the Iraqi government until they've reached success," he said. He said setting conditions was "an insult to the people of Iraq."
Bush has given the report a lukewarm reception and said he will weigh its recommendations along with other possible courses of action.
The recommendations, which are not binding, also have met opposition from some in the United States for the suggestion to withdraw nearly all combat brigades from Iraq by early 2008.
Talabani said the date was realistic if the Iraqi government is given more responsibility for security.
"If we can agree with the U.S. government to give us the right of organizing, training, arming our armed forces, it will be possible in 2008 (for U.S.-led forces) to start to leave Iraq and to go back home," he said.
Kurds have been the strongest critics so far of the report and Talabani said he backed a statement by the president of the Kurdish region who objected to recommendations on sharing the oil wealth, reinstating Saddam loyalists in their old government jobs and giving Iraq's neighbors a role in efforts to end the violence.
A statement by the governmental De-Baathification Commission also denounced the Baker-Hamilton report as "wrong and untrue" for its assertion that purging the government of Baathists robbed state institutions of professionals.
"If you read this report, one would think that it is written for a young, small colony that they are imposing these conditions on," Talabani said. "We are a sovereign country."
In one point of agreement, however, Talabani said Iraq already has initiated talks with Syria and Iran on gaining help in tackling the problems facing his country, and he plans to visit Damascus soon.
Syria, meanwhile, warned that the United States would face hatred and failure in the Mideast if the White House rejects the report's recommendations.
Syria's ruling party's Al-Baath newspaper urged Bush to take the Iraq Study Group's report seriously because it would "diminish hatred for the U.S. in region."
"But if it failed to pick up the positive signals either in the report or in the Syrian welcome of what the report has contained, it (the U.S.) would remain drowned in the quagmire and the situation in the region and the entire world would remain unstable," the newspaper said.