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Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006, 04:57 GMT 05:57 UK
US official retracts Iraq remarks
A US marine flies over Iraq (file image)
US Iraq policy is under intense scrutiny
The US state department official who said that the US had shown "arrogance and stupidity" in Iraq has apologised for his comments.

Alberto Fernandez, who made the remarks during an interview with Arabic TV station al-Jazeera, said he had "seriously misspoken".

His comments did not represent the views of the state department, he said.

The BBC's Sarah Morris in Washington says it is unclear if Mr Fernandez was told by his seniors to apologise.

His original remarks have resonated with many Democrats and some Republicans who have been urging the administration to shift their course in the conflict, she says.

They came at a time of intense scrutiny of White House Iraq policy, with mid-term elections due next month.

'Disaster for region'

Mr Fernandez is an Arabic speaker who is director of public diplomacy in the state department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

On Saturday, he told the Qatar-based broadcaster that the world was "witnessing failure in Iraq".

Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on al-Jazeera, I realised that I seriously misspoke
Alberto Fernandez

"That's not the failure of the United States alone, but it is a disaster for the region," he said.

"I think there is great room for strong criticism, because without doubt, there was arrogance and stupidity by the United States in Iraq."

State department spokesman Sean McCormack initially said that Mr Fernandez had been quoted incorrectly and rejected his comments.

America is making headway in Iraq. But it is far too little far too late
William Mark Bosien, USA

And in a statement posted on the state department's website, Mr Fernandez retracted his remarks.

"Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on al-Jazeera, I realised that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase: 'There has been arrogance and stupidity' by the US in Iraq," he said.

"This represents neither my views nor those of the state department. I apologise."

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