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Iraqis split on U.S. troop timetable vote

Iraqis divided on Friday along sectarian lines over the U.S. congressional vote pushing for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, with many Sunnis welcoming the call and Shiites and Kurds fearful it would increase the bloodshed.
A U.S. soldier stands guard Friday as some Baghdad residents wait in line to get fuel.Khalid Mohammed / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Iraqis divided on Friday along sectarian lines over the U.S. congressional vote pushing for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, with many Sunnis welcoming the call and Shiites and Kurds fearful it would increase the bloodshed.

The Shiite-led government warned the Oct. 1 start date approved by the Senate on Thursday was too soon.

"I support the congressional vote because we want the U.S. forces to leave our country as soon as possible," said Ziad Zuhair, 25, Sunni Arab student in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq that has suffered widespread attacks on civilians by insurgents.

"A pullout of U.S. soldiers would create even bigger problems than we have now," said Ghiath Ali Souji, 35, a Kurdish high school teacher in Mosul. "Iraqi forces are not ready to deal with the insurgents and militiamen, and this will lead to even more chaos and killings."

The Senate on Thursday adopted House-passed legislation calling for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1, but President Bush pledged to veto the measure and neither body passed the measure with enough votes to override a veto.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Oct. 1 was too soon for a withdrawal and said the Senate vote "sends wrong signals" to militants.

3 Marines die in Anbar
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said three U.S. Marines were killed Thursday in fighting in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. The deaths raised to at least 3,337 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

U.S.-led forces also detained nine suspected insurgents in raids aimed at al-Qaida in Iraq, including five in the northern city of Mosul who allegedly made car bombs and attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces, the military said Friday.

In southern Iraq, the Basra provincial council is expected to hold a no-confidence vote soon against Mohammed al-Waili, the region's Shiite governor, amid demonstrations by political groups calling for his resignation and accusing him of corruption, officials said Friday.

The political tension in the predominantly Shiite province that includes Basra has been a major topic recently in the national parliament, underlying the rivalry between Shiite groups vying for influence as Britain prepares to reduce its forces in the region.

Many minority Sunnis have long opposed the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, which ended Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni Baathist government and military and cleared the way for majority Shiites and minority Kurds to gain more power in the new elected government than they had ever had.

More vote reactions
Friday's public reaction to the congressional vote was mixed along sectarian lines.

"This is a wrong move by the Democrats," said Muhei Hadi, Shiite municipal counselor in Baghdad. "The U.S. forces must stay in Iraq until Iraqi forces are really qualified to face terrorists. I hope that Bush will use his veto."

Qudama Fawzi, 35, Sunni engineer and former Baathist party member in Baghdad, said he hoped the congressional vote "will put more pressure on Bush to hasten the transfer of military power from the coalition to Iraqi forces."

In Basra, Shiite police Col. Karim Sadkhan said he believes a quick U.S. military withdrawal "will encourage the terrorists to wage more attacks and killings."

Wisam Abdullah, 28, a Sunni restaurant owner in Basra, said: "All Iraqis want the U.S. Army to leave our country." But in Basra, where Shiite militias are competing for influence as British troops prepare to begin leaving the area, even Abdullah seemed worried. "I do not think that now is the best time to ask for the U.S. withdrawal," he said.

In other developments Friday:

  • A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol in Mosul missed its target but killed a civilian in Mosul, police Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim al-Jubouri.
  • An al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility in an Internet statement for a suicide bombing the day before that targeted a headquarters of a Kurdish political party in northern Iraq, killing three security guards and wounding five.
  • The U.S. military also said an Iraqi detainee at Camp Bucca, a U.S. Army prison in Iraq, died the day before from injuries apparently sustained during an assault by other prisoners. The case was being investigated.