Top US diplomat: We have shown stupidity and arrogance in Iraq

Click to follow

A senior US diplomat said yesterday that the United States had shown "arrogance" and "stupidity" in Iraq, but warned that failure in the violence-ridden Arab nation would be a disaster for the entire region.

In an interview with al-Jazeera, Alberto Fernandez, director of public diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the US State Department, also said the US was ready to talk with any Iraqi group - excluding al- Qa'ida in Iraq - to reach national reconciliation in the country, which is racked by widening sectarian strife as well as an enduring insurgency.

"We tried to do our best but I think there is much room for criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq," he said. "We are open to dialogue because we all know that, at the end of the day, the hell and the killings in Iraq are linked to an effective Iraqi national reconciliation," he said, speaking in Arabic.

His remarks came as President George Bush continued to review Iraq strategy with his top generals. In his weekly radio address, broadcast yesterday, he said he would make "every necessary change" in tactics to respond to spiralling violence in Iraq, and acknowledged that a drive to stabilise Baghdad had not gone as planned. But he said he would not abandon his goal of building a self-sustaining Iraqi government. President Bush said: "The past few weeks have been rough for our troops in Iraq and for the Iraqi people... Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging: our goal is victory. What is changing are the tactics we use to achieve that."

Meanwhile, Tony Blair is to hold talks with Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, in London tomorrow about an exit strategy for British troops. The Prime Minister is expected to discuss the country's escalating violence and the role that Syria and Iran could play in brokering a peace. Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, will also meet the Iraqi politician.

The London talks will focus on plans for an eventual withdrawal from Iraq, although Britain has ruled out an immediate pull-out. The discussion will also consider how to resolve the violence, including the situation in Amarah, where British troops remain on standby after it was first over-run by Shia militia and then retaken by Iraqi forces.

Yesterday, the Foreign Office stressed the need for Iran and Syria to engage with Iraq and said they could play an important role. The view chimes with that of a study group set up by the former US secretary of state, James Baker, at President Bush's request. Leaks from the Iraq study group suggest it will recommend talks with Iran and Syria - which President Bush branded part of an "axis of evil".