Reuters: The White House acknowledged on Monday that sectarian violence in Iraq had entered “a new phase” but denied it amounted to civil war. TALLINN, Nov 27 (Reuters) – The White House acknowledged on Monday that sectarian violence in Iraq had entered “a new phase” but denied it amounted to civil war.
U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters that President George W. Bush would discuss with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan this week how to deal with the worsening bloodshed.
“We’re clearly in a new phase, characterized by this increasing sectarian violence that requires us obviously to adapt to that new phase and these two leaders need to be talking about how to do that,” Hadley told reporters accompanying Bush to the Estonian capital, Tallinn.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said earlier that Iraq was close to civil war — “in fact we are almost there” — after Baghdad bombings last week in which more than 200 people died.
“The Iraqis don’t talk of it as a civil war,” Hadley said, arguing that the police and army had not fractured on sectarian lines and the Iraqi unity government was holding together.
Among the issues he said Bush and Maliki would likely discuss was whether the United States should talk to Iran and Syria in an effort to end the violence in Iraq.
“I think you’re going to find that Prime Minister Maliki is going to bring that up with the president,” Hadley said.
“He (Maliki) has some strong views on that subject. As you know the Iraqis have been talking to the Syrians. The Iraqis have been talking to the Iranians. Their view is that the future of Iraq, if it is a subject of conversation with Syria and Iran, ought to be a conversation by Iraqis,” he said.
Bush is in Europe for a summit with NATO allies in the Latvian capital, Riga, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hadley also said Bush had telephoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and discussed the importance of supporting the Lebanese government and of “sending a firm message to Syria that it needs to stop destabilizing that government”.
Many Lebanese blamed Damascus for the assassination last week of Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, the latest in a series of murders of anti-Syrian politicians since Syria was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon last year.