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Europeans welcome commission's recommendations as sign of change in U.S. view of Iraq

Europeans welcome commission's recommendations as sign of change in U.S. view of Iraq

European leaders, who have been sharply critical of the war in Iraq, welcomed the U.S. advisory group's report as a "necessary course correction" and a first step in what they consider a more realistic American view of the conflict.
The Iraq Study Group's proposal to engage Iran and Syria found approval _ although talk of beginning a U.S. withdrawal made some officials wary that Washington may press European governments for help they are reluctant to give.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told the new French international news channel France 24 late Wednesday: "I think that it is a first step for the Americans to at last see this war in Iraq for what it is."
Karsten Voigt, the German government's coordinator on relations with the U.S., said on n-tv television that: "We should be happy that there is a course correction in the United States."
"If we as Europeans and as Germans can help diplomatically, then we should," he said. "We are also ready to help with reconstruction in Iraq, if the security situation permits."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he planned to press U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about which of the commission's recommendations the Bush administration planned to implement.
Steinmeier, who meets Rice on Friday in Washington, said he welcomed "the possibility to be able to discuss these details."
Voigt was clear that Germany would not send troops. Andreas Schockenhoff, a deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in parliament, warned the U.S. against thinking there are "obligations for other NATO partners."
The Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a Republican, and Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic member of the House of Representatives, recommended on Wednesday that U.S. forces largely withdraw from combat over the next year and focus on training Iraqis.
The report also called for stepped-up diplomatic efforts _ including talks with Iran and Syria, which Bush has previously spurned _ to stabilize Iraq and revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
French newspapers welcomed the group's report as a belated admission of American defeat and another blow to the Bush administration.
Le Monde said the report was "a lesson in diplomacy" for Bush.
"The Baker report is first a stinging statement of failure of the policy of George Bush and his administration: failure in Iraq, failure in the Middle East and toward the American people."
The front page of left-wing daily Liberation dubbed the report America's "confession," calling it "the most biting snub of (Bush's) presidency."
Britain's left-leaning Guardian newspaper headlined its story, "Bush Told: Alter Iraq Policy or Risk Disaster," while The Independent put "Apocalypse Now" over a photo of a screaming Iraqi woman.
Still, some Europeans were skeptical about the report itself. Germano Dottori, an analyst at Rome's Center for Strategic Studies, said the report is "already significantly overtaken by reality."
"The report suggests a diplomatic intervention by Syria and Iran, which stems from the illusion of being able to solve the problems on the ground by means of diplomacy," Dottori said. "I don't see how negotiation with diplomats from Syria and Iran could help bring peace among the different militias that are fighting from dawn to night."
Many Arabs interpreted the bleak assessment of President Bush's Iraq policies as proof of Washington's failure in the Middle East.
But others worried about the consequences if the U.S. follows the group's suggestions, warning that the report could aid insurgents and others vying to fill Iraq's security vacuum.
Mustafa Bakri, an outspoken critic of the U.S. and editor of the Egyptian tabloid Al-Osboa, told a state-run television show that the report indicated "the end of America."
Bakri, who supports Syrian President Bashar Assad and the former regime of Saddam Hussein, urged Arab countries to "capture the moment as America now is in its weakest period."
The U.S. report was the top headline in many Arab newspapers on Thursday, including the Egyptian opposition daily Al-Wafd, which declared: "Bush confesses defeat in Iraq."
The paper's editor in chief, Anwar el-Hawari, predicted that "this is the real end of Bush rule, his policies and the neo-conservative groups."
Others warned that insurgents and countries including Iran were taking advantage of Bush's failures and the spiraling violence, and their influence would increase if the U.S. leaves.
"Al-Qaida must smell victory, but it's a negative victory that comes from the defeat of America in Iraq," said Abdel Moneim Said, head of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic studies in Cairo.
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Associated Press Writer Marta Falconi in Rome contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-26 22:45 GMT+08:00