Friday, May 26, 2006

Bush says Abu Ghraib was biggest mistake of Iraq war

Yahoo! News
Bush says Abu Ghraib was biggest mistake of Iraq war

President George W. Bush said that the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal was the "biggest mistake" made by the United States in Iraq.

Speaking after a summit with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said "I think the biggest mistake that's happened so far, at least from our country's involvement, is Abu Ghraib. We've been paying for that for a long period of time."

The Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal that broke with the release of photos of Iraqi prisoners being sexually humiliated at the Baghdad prison drew international criticism for US forces.

Bush said he also regretted some of his tough talk during the war campaign such as his "bring them on" challenge to Iraqi insurgents in July, 2003.

Blair said that the way the international coalition embarked on the "deBathification" of Iraq after the ousting of Saddam Hussein as president had been the biggest mistake he had seen.

Bush refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq following the creation of its new government, saying "we will keep the force level there necessary to win".

Bush reaffirmed his position that the 130,000 US troops in Iraq could start coming home once Iraqi forces can take charge of security duties.

Facing growing public concern over the duration of the Iraq war, the US leader said: "It's important for the American people to know that politics isn't going to make the decision as to the size of our force level."

Blair used the press conference to call for international support for the new Iraqi government. The British prime minister visited Baghdad on Monday, two days after new Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki named his government.

Maliki has said it is possible for Iraqi forces to be ready to take over security duties by the end of 2007.

Blair told the press conference: "I think it's possible for the Iraqi security forces to take control, progressively, in the country."

"But when the prime minister talked about an objective timetable, what he meant was a timetable governed by conditions on the ground," Blair added.

"We will work with them now to see if we can put that framework together," the British leader declared. "They want us there in support, until they've got the capability, I believe that can happen."

Speaking also on Iran, Bush said that it is was up to Iran whether it would remain isolated by the world community because of its nuclear program.

"The Iranians walked away from the table. They made the decision, and the choice is theirs," Bush said at the White House after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Britain, France and Germany have prepared a package of incentives to try to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment work.

The United States and its allies are also pushing for a UN Security Council resolution that could eventually trigger sanctions against Tehran. China and Russia oppose any punitive sanctions on Iran.

Bush said that should Iran choose to cooperate with the world community, an "enhanced package" of benefits awaits.

"If they would like to see an enhanced package, they have to suspend, for the good of the world," the US president said.

"It's incredible dangerous to think of an Iran with a nuclear weapon," Bush added.