Iraqi battalion refused to help Marines fight


WASHINGTON - A battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah last week to support U.S. Marines battling Muslim insurgents for control of the city, the commander of coalition ground troops in Iraq confirmed yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, speaking on NBC's Meet The Press, said the incident revealed "challenges" within Iraq's security forces as the United States looks to hand power back to the Iraqis on June 30.

"That one instance did, in fact, uncover some significant challenges in some of the Iraqi security force structures," Sanchez said.

The Washington Post, quoting U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton in a report yesterday, said the 620-man 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi Armed Forces refused to fight last Monday after members of the unit were shot at in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Baghdad while en route to Fallujah. The convoy turned around and returned to the battalion's base in Taji, north of the Iraqi capital.

The Post quoted Eaton as saying members of the battalion insisted that they "did not sign up to fight Iraqis."

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