BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Fallujah’s civic leaders joined
American officials yesterday in calling for insurgents battling
Marines here to surrender their heavy weapons in return for a
promise not to resume the U.S. offensive against the city,
according to a U.S. spokesman.
The commitments appeared to be the first fruits of direct
negotiations between U.S. officials and a group of civic leaders
and professionals representing Fallujah residents. They have
influence with Sunni insurgents who have been fighting Marines, who
have besieged the city.
Much now depends on how guerrillas respond. Brig. Gen. Mark
Kimmitt warned that if the deal falls apart, Marines are prepared
to launch a final assault, meaning a resumption of heavy fighting
after days of calm.
“It would appear there is an agreed political
track,” he told reporters. “There is also a very clear
understanding … that should this agreement not go through,
Marines forces are more than prepared to carry through with
President Bush scolded Spain’s new prime minister for his
swift withdrawal of Madrid’s 1,300 troops from Iraq and told
him to avoid actions that give “false comfort to terrorists
or enemies of freedom in Iraq.”
Late last night Honduras followed Spain, with President Ricardo
Maduro announcing the pullout of his troops “in the shortest
time possible,” confirming U.S. fears. Also yesterday Albania
pledged more soldiers, but U.S. officials are bracing for further
Bush expressed his views in a five-minute telephone call with
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who on Sunday ordered
the 1,300 troops to return home as soon as possible.
The troops will withdraw in four to five weeks, according to
Polish Gen. Mieczyslaw Bieniek, the commander of a multinational
peacekeeping force. He told Poland’s PAP news agency that
soldiers from El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic
would take over Spanish duties.
Bush “expressed his regret to President Zapatero about the
decision to abruptly announce the pullout of Spanish troops from
Iraq,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos told the newspaper El
Pais that Zapatero’s government will honor Spain’s
pledges at the recent Iraq Donor’s Conference and help in
Iraq’s reconstruction and transition to democracy.