Premier rejects Iraq conference

He dismisses U.N. notion of civil war

December 05, 2006|By Alexandra Zavis | Alexandra Zavis,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq's prime minister rejected yesterday U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's characterization of the Iraq conflict as a civil war, accusing him of "burnishing the image" of the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also rejected Annan's suggestion that an international conference could help the country resolve its sectarian divides and deadly insurgency.

"His call for an international conference on Iraq is a denial of the will of the Iraqi people," al-Maliki's office said in a statement. "The Iraqi government, which is founded on a constitutional basis, will not accept the notion of holding an international conference about Iraq that will reverse all the development in the political process and impose an international guardianship on the Iraqi people."

Meanwhile, U.S. forces recovered the last three bodies after four servicemen were killed Sunday when a Marine helicopter made an emergency landing in water. The deaths raised to 13 the number of U.S. military personnel killed in an unusually deadly weekend.

Al-Maliki's terse statement yesterday comes as the prime minister is attempting to shore up his fractured government by standing up to international leaders, demanding more control of his security forces and promising a Cabinet reshuffle.

American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. general in Iraq, pleaded with Iraqis yesterday not to be drawn into the cycle of revenge killings gripping Baghdad.

"The true enemies of all Iraqis are the murderers who carry out these senseless and cowardly attacks, regardless of sect, tribe or ethnicity," Khalilzad and Casey said in a joint statement. "We implore all Iraqis not to become pawns of those who seek to destroy you and your country. Do not allow yourself to be drawn down the road of senseless brutality by striking back."

Police in Baghdad recovered 52 bodies in the 24 hours ending last night, many of them bound, tortured and shot, apparent victims of death squads.

At least 10 other unidentified bodies were recovered in Baqouba, north of the capital, and one in Hilla, to the south, police and morgue officials said.

West of the capital, U.S. forces recovered the bodies of three service members missing since mechanical problems forced a CH-46 helicopter with 16 people aboard to make an emergency landing in Lake Qadisiyah in Anbar province, the U.S. command said. One body was recovered shortly after the crash.

A news editor with the independent radio station Dijila was gunned down yesterday as he left his Baghdad home. At least 93 journalists and 45 support staff have been killed since the war's start, most of them Iraqis, according to a count by the group Reporters Without Borders.

A roadside bomb killed a child and injured two other people yesterday in a predominantly Sunni part of south Baghdad. The previous day, a 5-year-old girl was shot and killed during an attack on U.S. forces and Iraqi police in the neighborhood, the military said.

Gunmen killed four government agricultural engineers as they drove to work in Baqouba, police said.

Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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