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Envoy Sorry for Iraq 'Stupidity' Comment

The Associated Press
Sunday, October 22, 2006; 10:27 PM

WASHINGTON -- A senior U.S. diplomat apologized Sunday night for saying U.S. policy in Iraq displayed "arrogance" and "stupidity."

A day after his remarks in an interview were broadcast by the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera, Alberto Fernandez issued a written apology through the State Department press office.

"Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on Al-Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase 'there has been arrogance and stupidity' by the U.S. in Iraq," said Fernandez, director of public diplomacy in State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

"This represents neither my views nor those of the State Department," Fernandez added. "I apologize."

U.S. officials had sought to play down Fernandez' assessment of the security situation in Iraq.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Saturday that Fernandez said after the broadcast he didn't think reports of his comments were an "accurate reflection of what he said." Asked whether the Bush administration believed that history will show a record of arrogance or stupidity in Iraq, McCormack replied, "No."

Fernandez spoke in fluent Arabic in the interview, which Al-Jazeera said was taped in Washington on Friday. His remarks were translated into English by The Associated Press.

Fernandez also said Washington was ready to talk with any Iraqi group except al-Qaida in Iraq to facilitate national reconciliation.

© 2006 The Associated Press