The top American military leader in Iraq says more US troops maybe headed to war. Speaking in Baghdad Tuesday, General George Casey said the US has set a new target to hand security control to the Iraqi government for no sooner than the end of next year. General Casey said he believes Iraq will see significant progress by that time but indicated that will require more US troops. He also blamed Iran and Syria for the ongoing violence.
Gen. George Casey: "Both Iran and Syria continue to be decidedly unhelpful by providing support to the different extremist and terrorist groups operating inside Iraq. Now if you add all this — the intensities of Ramadan and the fact that the new government is about 150 days old — it makes for a difficult situation and it’s likely to remain that way over the near term."
General Casey spoke alongside US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad: "My message today is straightforward. Despite the difficult challenges we face, success in Iraq is possible and can be achieved on a realistic timetable. Iraqi leaders must step up to achieve key political and security milestones on which they have agreed."
For several minutes, Casey and Khalilzad were forced to speak in the dark following a power outage in the US-controlled Green Zone.
As the Bush administration weighs sending more troops, the British military may be setting a timetable to withdraw its forces within a year. A U.S. defense official has told the Reuters news agency Britain is complaining its troops are "near the breaking point" in Iraq. A new poll released Tuesday shows withdrawal enjoys wide support among British citizens, with sixty percent in favor of a pullout this year.
Meanwhile, more than one hundred active duty service members have now signed an appeal formally asking Congress to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The appeal was launched this week on the website http://www.appealforredress.org:. It says: "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."
In other Iraq news, an overnight US air strike has killed at least five people and injured six others in the Sadr City district of Baghdad. The US says it launched the attacks after Iraqi troops came under fire. The Iraqi Interior Ministry says another twenty Iraqis were injured in the US raid.
Also Tuesday, the Pentagon announced the deaths of four US troops. Ninety-one service members have now lost their lives in Iraq this month.
Meanwhile, the US military is apologizing for what it calls the accidental killing of four Iraqi firefighters. The firefighters were responding to a call Monday when they were pulled over by US troops. The Pentagon says the troops opened fire after mistaking the unarmed firefighters for insurgents.
Venezuela is denying it’s given up its bid to join the UN Security Council and asked Bolivia to run in its place. The denial came after Bolivian President Evo Morales made this announcement on Tuesday.
Bolivian President Evo Morales: "Comandante Chavez told me that as they have not been able to... attain the two-thirds of the Security Council, our friend Hugo Chavez said, to gain consensus, he would give the candidacy to Bolivia. We are candidates to the Security Council. Let’s hope we are able to achieve consensus. Our Ambassador will be mobilizing at the United Nations."
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry says it’s raised the possibility of Bolivia’s candidacy but has not made a final decision. Guatemala currently leads Venezuela but has not received the required two-thirds majority of votes at the General Assembly.
In other news from the UN, Cuba is renewing calls for an end to the US embargo ahead of an upcoming vote at the General Assembly. This is Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, Chief of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington.
Chief of Cuban Interest Section Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera: "The U.S. blockade has caused the Cuban people immense suffering and not only violates their fundamental human rights, but also the rights of Cubans who live in the U.S., the people of the United States and citizens in third countries."
The UN General Assembly holds its annual vote on the embargo two weeks from today.
In Afghanistan, a young girl was killed and two other children injured in a NATO bombing in the eastern Kunar province Tuesday. A NATO spokesperson said its forces were aiming at insurgents.
In the Occupied Territories, a Spanish photographer with the Associated Press was freed Tuesday after less than a day in captivity. The photographer, Emilio Morenatti, had been kidnapped by masked assailants outside his apartment earlier in the day.
In environmental news, the World Wildlife Fund is warning humans will be in need of two planets’ worth of natural resources by the year 2050 unless consumption undergoes a radical change. The WWF says human reliance on the environment is now twenty-five percent greater than the planet can provide each year.
Here in the United States, a new report from the monitor group ElectionLine.org is warning ten states are at risk of major voting problems in next month’s mid-term elections. The report says balloting could be complicated by a combination of uncertain voting machine technology and confusion over procedures. The report concludes: "The Nov. 7 election promises to bring more of what voters have come to expect since the 2000 elections: a divided body politic, an election system in flux, and the possibility — if not certainty — of problems at polls nationwide."
Meanwhile, another report says these elections will mark the most expensive congressional race in US history. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, candidates, parties and advocacy groups will spend $2.6 billion dollars on races across the country. Three-quarters of the total spending will come from business groups.
In education news, the Bush administration has announced new rules that will allow school districts to create more single-sex classrooms and schools. The new rules alter existing regulations that bar sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women are both opposing the rule change.
And finally, this news from Louisiana. New figures show a major racial disparity in the payment of insurance claims to victims of Hurricane Katrina. According to the Associated Press, white residents of New Orleans and surrounding parishes have been three times as likely as minority residents to request and receive help from agencies in disputes with insurance companies. Government figures show that close to seventy five percent of settled claims were filed by residents living in predominantly white neighborhoods.