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America can’t make up its mind on troops

San Antonio (Texas), Aug. 26 (Agencies): US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today troop levels in Iraq met the current needs of commanders in the field, as prominent voices in Washington called for extra forces to secure the country more than five months after the US invasion.

In Iraq, a bomb attack on a US convoy killed one soldier and wounded two today, as tension simmered among feuding ethnic groups in the north of the country and Shia factions in the south.

A US army spokeswoman said the convoy was attacked on a highway between the restive Sunni towns of Falluja and Ramadi, hotbeds of resistance against occupying American forces.

Speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting in San Antonio, Rumsfeld said that analysis by the US joint chiefs of staff indicated the United States had enough troops in Iraq to execute its mission. Rumsfeld said after a visit to nearby Lackland Air Force Base that US central command chief Gen. John Abizaid, who is responsible for US military operations in Iraq, has told him the number of troops in Iraq is “appropriate at the present time for the tasks that he has.”

“There are some recommending that more US forces go in. I can tell you that if Gen Abizaid recommended it, it would happen in a minute. But he has not recommended it,” Rumsfeld said, adding: “And the facts change continuously, on the ground, and we have to watch it continuously.”

Rumsfeld was speaking a day after prominent Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona called for “at least another division” of US troops — which could total about 20,000 troops — saying the situation in Iraq had become “a race against time.”

Rumsfeld said US military leaders were not surprised at the calls for more troops and compared the situation to post-World War II Germany, where allied forces came under attack from former Nazi soldiers.

“Like the death squads in Iraq, they failed to stop the liberation of Germany,” he said. “The resistance our coalition faces today may appear more significant than otherwise might have been the case.”

UN resolution

After a high-profile pitch at the UN for more countries to send troops to Iraq, the Bush administration is encountering resistance and may not seek a Security Council resolution after all, US officials said yesterday.

“We have not yet made a determination,” deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said, alluding to the possibility of a new resolution. Other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted the strong stand that some UN members had taken against the US decision to go to war with Iraq in march without the council’s blessing.

Asked about the status of any new resolution, the US ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, said: “We’re nowhere near a text on Iraq.” Secretary of state Colin Powell interrupted his vacation last Thursday to travel to New York and make the case for a new council resolution.

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