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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 December 2006, 13:16 GMT
Iraqi leader criticises US report
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
Mr Talabani said the report was "not fair and not just"
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has criticised some of the main findings of a high-level US report calling for a change of strategy in Iraq.

Mr Talabani rejected the Iraq Study Group's proposal to withdraw US troops if Iraq failed to strengthen security.

He also objected to including former regime members in reconciliation talks.

His comments come as outgoing US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Iraq to thank US troops for their efforts in the war.

Mr Talabani had previously praised the sections of the ISG report urging talks with neighbouring countries including Iran and Syria.

[The report] contains dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and its constitution
Jalal Talabani

However, on Sunday he dismissed the group's call for the US to reduce its support for the Iraqi government if there was no substantial progress towards political reconciliation and security.

This, he said, was like treating Iraq as a colony on which the US could impose conditions, not a sovereign country.

'Interesting idea'

Speaking at his Baghdad residence, Mr Talabani said: "I think that the Baker-Hamilton report is not fair and not just, and it contains dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and its constitution."

He also said he objected to including representatives of the former regime under Saddam Hussein in any attempts at reconciliation.

Involving members of the Baath party would be "against the long struggle of the Iraqi people against dictatorship", he said.

Sunni politicians in Iraq welcomed that recommendation but the president of the Kurdish autonomous region in the north described the report's conclusions as unrealistic and inappropriate.

In an exclusive BBC interview, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faysal warned of the danger of the violence in Iraq spreading across the Middle East.

He described holding a regional conference in Saudi Arabia as an "interesting idea" but said he had urged Syria and Iran not to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs.

According to Prince Saud, the priority now was for the elements of resistance inside Iraq to be "brought into the political sphere".

'Seeing the task through'

Mr Talabani's comments follow a visit to Iraq by outgoing US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who will be succeeded on 18 December by former CIA chief Robert Gates.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Anbar province, Iraq
The consequences of failure are unacceptable - the enemy must be defeated
Donald Rumsfeld

Mr Rumsfeld addressed 1,200 US soldiers and marines at a military base in Anbar province - an insurgent stronghold, saying US forces should not quit the war until the enemy is defeated.

"For the past six years, I have had the opportunity and, I would say, the privilege, to serve with the greatest military on the face of the Earth," Mr Rumsfeld said in a speech at al-Asad military base.

"We feel great urgency to protect the American people from another 9/11 or a 9/11 times two or three.

"At the same time, we need to have the patience to see this task through to success. The consequences of failure are unacceptable. The enemy must be defeated," he was quoted as saying on the Pentagon website.

The defence secretary also met US service personnel in Balad, 80km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, it said.

Mr Rumsfeld left for Iraq on Friday, a defence department spokesman said, after he had given an emotional farewell speech to Pentagon staff.

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