Powell: U.S. losses in Iraq hurting administration

/ Source: The Associated Press

Saying “we have run into some tough weeks” in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged Thursday that support among the American people for the Bush administration’s policies there is declining.

“When lives are lost people start to wonder about it, and it is reflected in the polls,” Powell told a news conference during a six-hour stopover in Denmark, a steadfast U.S. ally in military operations.

But Powell said he expects a rebound. “The American people fully understand the value of what we are doing,” he said.

In Iraq, 10 U.S. soldiers were killed Thursday — eight of them in a car bombing south of Baghdad. The two others were killed in a convoy attack in Baghdad and roadside bomb in Baqoubah, north of the capital.

At the same time, U.S. Marines announced an agreement to end a bloody, nearly monthlong siege of Fallujah, saying American forces will pull back and allow an all-Iraqi force commanded by a former Saddam Hussein-regime general to take over security.

The American deaths raised to 126 the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in April, the bloodiest month for U.S. forces in Iraq.

Americans are evenly split on whether taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, the latest CBS News-New York Times poll found.

Less than half, 47 percent, said taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, and about the same number, 46 percent, said the United States should have stayed out of the country. Only a month ago, 58 percent said the military action was right, and 37 percent said it was not.

Another poll indicates that Iraqis — while still glad about Saddam’s removal — are growing increasingly dismayed with the U.S. occupation. Almost 6 in 10 Iraqis, or 57 percent, said they would prefer to see U.S. troops leave their country within the next few months, rather than stay longer, according to a CNN-USAToday-Gallup nationwide poll, which was conducted in Iraq several weeks ago.

Powell’s insistence that the United States and its allies must remain and steer Iraq toward Democracy drew an instant endorsement from Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller.

“We reiterated our intention to stay until the job is done,” Moeller said.

Powell said he hoped a NATO meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, in June would produce a call from the alliance for more countries to contribute troops.

Powell said there were 30 nations in the U.S.-led coalition, but that he was “not sure there is a great reservoir of troops in NATO” to join them.

“Denmark has no plans to pull out our troops from Iraq. They are doing a very important job and should continue. Foreign troops are still needed to provide stable and secure conditions in Iraq.”

Appearing with Powell at a news conference, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed his “heartfelt sorrow” for the latest loss of U.S. soldiers in Iraq

“I told Mister Powell that many in Europe are seriously concerned about Iraq and the recent developments in the Middle East,” he said.

“There is a feeling that European views are not always taken into account. At the same time it is my strong impression from talks with European colleagues that Europe is ready to look at that, to overcome past disagreements,” Fogh Rasmussen added. “We’re are facing common and serious challenges that Europe and the United States should address together, in Iraq and in the Israel-Palestinian relationship and regarding political and democratic reforms in the Arab world. In other words, the time has come to join forces.”

Referring to the insurgents as terrorists, Powell said “they want to return to dictatorship, to the repression of the past, but we won’t let that happen.”

Denmark’s decision to keep some 500 troops in Iraq countered somewhat the defection of Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.