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Rumsfeld for quicker deployment of Iraq forces

Baghdad, Dec. 6 (Reuters): US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, architect of the war to oust Saddam Hussein, said today he wanted to further accelerate the deployment of Iraqi security forces and defended the Pentagon’s handling of Iraq.

Rumsfeld quizzed top US commanders and watched American soldiers train new Iraqi security forces in the one-day trip to Iraq, his third visit since Saddam fell in April.

Senior generals gave Rumsfeld an upbeat assessment of recent aggressive military operations against insurgents they say are led by Saddam loyalists.

“There have been a lot of people who have said: ‘Oh my goodness, you ought to have more troops, you ought to do this, and something else ought to be done’,” Rumsfeld said.

“But I am convinced that the direction that we set from the outset is the right one and that is being executed exceedingly well, and that the security circumstances in the country will be passed over time to Iraqi security forces of various types, and that they will be able to do it.”

Rumsfeld has come under fire over post-war planning for Iraq, as insurgents mount daring attacks against US forces and allies as well as Iraqis cooperating with the occupation.

Yesterday, a bomb exploded in the middle of a busy Baghdad road as a US military convoy and a minibus passed in opposite directions, killing an American soldier and four Iraqis.

The attack took to 190 the toll of US service personnel killed in action in Iraq since Washington declared major combat over on May 1. Scores of Iraqis have also died in almost daily attacks by anti-American insurgents.

In the northern city of Mosul, an Iraqi policeman was killed today in a drive-by shooting. Police said Omar Saleh was shot dead as he left his house to go to work. Police have often been targeted in shootings and bomb attacks in Iraq.

“The shots were fired from a vehicle with three men inside,” said Lieutenant Shakr Khader, investigating officer at Saleh’s local police station. “The officer was in uniform and it appears he was killed just because he was a policeman.”

In Tokyo, Japan bade an emotional farewell to two diplomats shot dead in Iraq last weekend when they stopped at a roadside food stall near Saddam’s hometown Tikrit. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed at their funeral service to carry on with efforts to help rebuild Iraq. The deaths have intensified debate in Japan over whether to go ahead with a deployment of non-combat troops to the country.

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