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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 08:17 GMT
US vows to improve Iraq security
Soldiers are deployed to secure the area after the abortive attack
US soldiers deployed to look for the attackers
A senior US official has admitted that continuing attacks in Iraq threaten American-led efforts to rebuild the country after the war.

Speaking in Washington, Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz blamed the attacks on a small number of Saddam Hussein loyalists, saying that the violence was distorting "the larger picture" of success.

He stressed that the priority therefore was to involve more Iraqis in the country's defence, though no mention was made of reviving its army.

His comments came shortly after the Baghdad headquarters of the US-led coalition were attacked for the second night running, injuring at least three people.

Foreign terrorists are trying to create conditions of fear. Freedom is what terrorists fear most
Paul Wolfowitz
Amid the continuing violence, Spain, a key US ally in the war, is recalling most of its Baghdad diplomatic staff.

The Spanish Government says the move is temporary and designed to assess the security situation in Iraq.

"There is no evacuation. It's a call for an exchange of opinions and consultations," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar told a news conference in Madrid.

The Spanish embassy is to remain open but its staff will be reduced to just four or five.

'List of achievements'

"Foreign terrorists are trying to create conditions of fear. Freedom is what terrorists fear most," said Mr Wolfowitz, who just returned back from a fact-finding trip to Iraq, during which his hotel came under rocket attack.

United States deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Wolfowitz stood by the US decision to go to war

"It doesn't take very many people to mount a terrorist attack. It can effectively obscure the larger picture," he added.

Mr Wolfowitz - seen by many as one of the main architects of the US-led war in Iraq - also underlined what he described as a list of American achievements in Iraq.

He said milestones included the recruitment of 10,000 new Iraqi security personnel, the establishment of a new judiciary and a free press.

He did not directly address the issue of reconstituting elements of the Iraqi army, which was disbanded after the war.

But the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says this is now under serious consideration as the White House looks for ways of dealing with the turmoil in Iraq and its political consequences at home.

Abortive attack

On Tuesday, loud explosions near the coalition's huge headquarters in Baghdad shook the city mid-evening local time, with the reverberations felt by reporters on the opposite bank of the Tigris river.

The Coalition Provisional Authority said the blasts caused no damage or injuries inside the compound.

US soldiers in Humvee vehicles with powerful spotlights sped to search an area along the river, Reuters reported.

The attack was a repeat of a similar one on Monday when three mortars landed in the city centre on Monday but caused no damage.

In other incidents:

  • An American soldier dies when his vehicle hits an explosive device in Baghdad

  • A homemade bomb in the town of Tikrit killed a US soldier on Monday, the US military says

  • A senior Iraqi judge is shot dead in Najaf - gunmen also kill a judge in Mosul

  • The UK Ministry of Defence announces that a Royal Marine was killed in hostile fire on 31 October

  • An explosion in the holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, on Monday night kills two Iraqis.

On Monday, President George W Bush vowed that the US would not run from what he called its "vital mission in Iraq" - his first public reaction to a helicopter attack near Falluja on Sunday that killed 15 American soldiers.

But in a sign of potential political problems for the president, senior Republican Congressman Jim Leach described US policy in Iraq as misguided and warned of mounting difficulties as long as American forces stayed there.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration received a boost on Monday when the US Senate gave final approval to the $87bn package for Iraq and Afghanistan.


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