US and Britain are in denial over failed policy, says former envoy

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The Independent Online

Iraq needs a new government to begin a process of national reconciliation leading to the withdrawal of foreign troops, because the US, Britain and Iraqi leaders are in a "state of denial" about their failed policy, a former UN envoy to the country says.

"There is a refusal to accept that the so-called process is not working. It collapsed a long time ago. They should sit down and put something else up. What we need is a serious attempt at national reconciliation that has never taken place," said Lakhdar Brahimi, the Algerian diplomat who put together the first blueprint for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Mr Brahimi, who has testified to the Iraq Study Group led by the former US secretary of state James Baker, emphasised that he was speaking in his personal capacity.

"On the departure of troops, frankly in the UK and US most of the time people are talking about solving the US/UK problem, not solving the Iraqi problem," he said. In the context of a national reconciliation programme, a temporary increase in troops may prove necessary, he said, but "part of that process will have to be a solemn, unequivocal, clear commitment to withdrawal and that there will be no more military bases in Iraq. Whether withdrawal takes place in six to eight months, or all at once, that would be part of the big negotiations."

He added that "what is very, very disturbing is that the militias killing Iraqis are actually in the government. In other words part of the government is part of the problem." He also warned that allowing Iraq to break up into three parts, as advocated by some politicians and commentators in the US and Britain, would produce "chaos, first inside Iraq, and then all over the region".

Mr Brahimi said the US and the UK should consult Iran and Syria on ending the violence in Iraq, but he warned that these two states alone do not hold a "miracle solution". All of Iraq's neighbours, including Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Arab League, should be involved in a negotiated solution, he said.

Asked whether the "window of opportunity" had already closed for Iraq, Mr Brahimi replied: "It's never totally closed. The thing is to know how to reopen it, but after how many thousands more are dead?"