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01/24/07 - Baghdad, Iraq

Iraqi Politicians: Bush Ideas Not New

Iraqi politicians on both side of the sectarian divide saw little new in President Bush's State of the Union address in which he urged critics to give his plan to increase American troops in Iraq a chance.

"It gives no real hope for ordinary Iraqis," Sunni lawmaker Hussein al-Falluji said Wednesday. "Bush said that sending more troops might solve the security problem, but I think it will not curb the violence for a long time because the problem is not only military, it is more political and about foreign interference."

Relatively few of the 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq had a chance to watch the speech on television since it was broadcast here before dawn. A few who did see it, however, said Bush's remarks contained no surprises and was unlikely would make a difference in their mission here.

"What I get from him is that we aren't going to lose the war on his watch," Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Taylor, 35, of Waterville, Maine, said. "The State of The Union wasn't a bomb-dropper."

Capt. Kenneth Rockwell, 29, of San Antonio, commander for the 510th Engineer Company, agreed.

"It's not going to affect that I'm here for a year," he said as he ate breakfast at Camp Liberty on the western outskirts of Baghdad. "I'm here for a year to do what my superiors say, but my opinions are irrelevant."

Al-Falluji, the Sunni lawmaker, welcomed Bush's warning that Shiite extremists backed by Iran against Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaida and supporters of Saddam Hussein's government could leading to violence that could spread across the Middle East.

Bush "also talked about the Iranian role in igniting violence and this means that he is now closer to understand the origin of the problem," al-Falluji said.

The Bush administration accuses the Shiite theocracy in Tehran of helping stoke the violence in predominantly Shiite Iraq. Sunnis, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein but lost power after his ouster and have led the insurgency, have also made that accusation.

A lawmaker with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc also urged a political solution.

"Bush's speech still contained the logic of force and destruction instead of the logic of dialogue and political solutions," Sadrist lawmaker Falah Hassan said. "I believe that the U.S. administration should adopt the speech of peace instead of the speech of soldiers."

Bush implored a skeptical Congress in his speech on Tuesday to embrace his unpopular plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, saying it represents the best hope in a war America must not lose. "Give it a chance to work," he said.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has promised to crack down equally on Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias such as the Mahdi Army that is loyal to al-Sadr and has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence in Baghdad.

"The U.S. Army should not take advantage of the new security plan in order to settle old scores with some Iraqi political groups," said Hassan, whose bloc has called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The speech was welcomed by others.

Kurdish lawmaker Abdullah al-Zebari also said the U.S. surge in troops will help the Iraqis take over their own security.

and Younadem Kana, an Assyrian Christian politician, said he appreciated the U.S. efforts to stabilize the country and "to bring back the dignity of our police and army at the same time and to get rid of militias."

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.

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