Britain: New Bush Plan Won't Alter Ours

The Associated Press
Thursday, January 11, 2007; 2:16 PM

LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair's government made it clear Thursday that the U.S. pledge to send more than 20,000 additional combat troops to Iraq won't change Britain's plans to eventually pull all its forces out of the country. Blair's government, America's top ally in the war, cautiously endorsed President Bush's plan, but said it won't match the U.S. commitment by sending any new troops of its own.

And in Russia, senior Defense Ministry official Vladimir Shamanov said the additional U.S. forces for Iraq "won't be able to radically change the situation with ensuring peace and security in this country."

He said the main weakness of the White House plan announced Wednesday is that it sends most of the additional troops to Baghdad. "Without firm authority in the provinces, it's not possible to establish law and order in the country," Shamanov told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Bush's speech lacked any new political ideas, and in Denmark, a key opposition politician put blame for the Iraq quagmire squarely at the feet of the American president.

"George W. Bush lives in his own world," said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, leader of Denmark's Social Democrats. "We are dealing with a stubborn president who continues with an uncertain strategy for Iraq's future."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the solution for Iraq, beyond Bush's troop increase, is "the participation of all civilian, political and religious elements in Iraqi society.

"It is through a comprehensive approach, through a political strategy, that Iraq and the whole region will regain their stability," Douste-Blazy said.

France was one of the main critics of Bush's push to invade Iraq in 2003.

Retired French Gen. Jean Salvan, who commanded troops in the first U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, said he believed Bush was paving the way for an honorable pullout in an effort to avoid the shame suffered when U.S. forces left Vietnam.

"What Bush is apparently trying to do is to depart from Iraq honorably, without leaving behind catastrophic images like when the Americans left Saigon," he said.

In Asia, however, key U.S. allies such as South Korea, Australia and Japan all pledged continued support for the U.S. war effort.

"If America retreats in Iraq, then that has enormous consequences for the stability of the Middle East and it will also be an enormous boost to terrorism in our part of the world," Australian Prime Minister John Howard said. Howard, whose country has 1,300 troops in and around Iraq, called Bush's plan "very clear, calm and above all, realistic."

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