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Bremer Says Iraqi Attacks Failed to Inflict Division

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2004 – The coalition's civilian administrator dismissed suggestions today that the March 2 attacks on Shiia pilgrims in Baghdad and Karbala have driven a wedge between coalition forces and the Iraqis.

The head of the Iraqi Governing Council's statement that the attacks occurred because the coalition had not provided adequate security was delivered "during the emotions of the moment" and should be considered accordingly, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer said on CBS' "The Early Show."

"I think that those kinds of comments don't reflect the real view of the Iraqi people," Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, said.

Bremer said coalition and Iraqi forces are working closely together to maintain security in Iraq while remaining sensitive to the Iraqi people. He said U.S. forces - at the request of the Iraqi authorities - had pulled away from holy places and shrines months ago out of respect for the religious significance of those places. "And in the course of the last few months, again at the request of the Iraqis, we've been giving more and more responsibility to Iraqi security forces for their own security," he said.

Bremer acknowledged "there's no question" that "we have to all work harder at security." He said the coalition believes that the suspected mastermind behind the attacks, convicted terrorist Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, is alive and in Iraq. Zarqawi's effort to incite sectarian violence in Iraq has not succeeded so far, Bremer said, despite inflicting senseless deaths among innocent civilians.

The Coalition Provisional Authority raised the bounty on Zarqawi's head to $10 million Feb. 12 and added him as a "wild card" to the coalition's most-wanted-fugitive card deck. "And we will get him, sooner or later," Bremer said.

Iraq, Bremer noted, stands at the forefront of the world war on terrorism. "And that is going to be a long, hard fight," he said, as it has been "elsewhere in the world where the terrorists have reared their heads.

"We have to win," he said, "but it's not going to be easy."

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