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British Army Chief Wants His Troops Out of Iraq

October 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

LONDON — The new head of Britain's army called for a withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, warning that their presence made security problems worse, according to an interview published Thursday.

Gen. Richard Dannatt called British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Iraq policies naive. Although Iraqis might have welcomed coalition forces after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, he said, the goodwill has evaporated after years of violence.

The British military should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems," Dannatt said in an interview with the Daily Mail released on the tabloid's website. "Whatever consent we may have had in the first place" from the Iraqi people "has largely turned to intolerance," he said.

The British government has not set a timetable for the withdrawal of its 7,500 troops in Iraq.

The Defense Ministry responded to Dannatt's interview by saying: "We have a clear strategy in Iraq. We are there with our international partners in support of the democratically elected government of Iraq, under a clear U.N. mandate."

Blair's office referred all questions to the Defense Ministry.

Analysts said Dannatt's comments were certain to infuriate Blair, who is President Bush's key ally in the Iraq war.

It is highly unusual for a sitting British military commander to publicly criticize the government's foreign policy.

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