Iraqi leader calls ISG report an 'insult'

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The President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, has broadly condemned the findings of President George Bush's Iraq Study Group as an "insult to the people of Iraq".

Mr Talabani, who is Kurdish, said he would write to Mr Bush explaining his objections to the findings of the panel, headed by former US secretary of state James Baker and retired congressman Lee Hamilton. Aides to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that he had yet to reach an opinion.

President Bush has stopped short of rejecting the report issued last week, which includes recommendations that the US withdraw its combat brigades from Iraq by early 2008 and engage in direct talks with Syria and Iran.

But he has indicated that he has no plans to embrace the report wholesale and will spend most of this week pondering options with his national security advisers for tackling America's increasingly calamitous engagement in the country.

Mr Talabani indicated his agreement on the need to talk with Damascus and Tehran, but denounced other recommendations which he sees as setting conditions for future support for Iraq's government.

He rejected changing the law to allow former Baathist members of the Saddam government to return to the civil service, for example, and criticised a proposal to increase the number of US troops embedded with the Iraqi army to train its soldiers. The report, he said, "is not fair, is not just, and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution. It is not respecting the desire of the Iraqi people to control its army and to be able to rearm and train Iraqi forces under the leadership of the Iraqi government.

"If you read this report, one would think that it is written for a young, small colony that they are imposing these conditions on. We are a sovereign country."