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Rumsfeld Blasts Iraqi Critics

Rumsfeld Blasts Iraqi Critics

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld lashed out at Iraqi critics of the U.S.-led occupation Saturday, demanding that they give American forces more information about saboteurs and terrorists.

"Instead of pointing fingers at the security forces of the coalition, ... it's important for the Iraqi people to step up and provide information," Rumsfeld said at a news conference.

Many Iraqis, as well as some members of Congress, have said they are frustrated that security remains a problem in Iraq four months after President Bush declared that major combat had ended. Rumsfeld acknowledged Iraq is not as safe as it should be but said the fault does not lie with American forces.

Accompanying Rumsfeld during the secretary's visit to the occupying American forces, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, held to his position that more American troops are not needed.

"There is no risk at the tactical, operational or strategic level," Sanchez said at the same news conference. "The only way we will fail in this country is if we decide to walk away in Iraq and fight the next battle on the war on terrorism in America.

"A platoon out of any one of my battalions could defeat the threat, readily. I don't need any more forces. We need the Iraqi people to help us and give us the intelligence we need."

Earlier, Rumsfeld visited a mass grave site and a Saddam Hussein execution chamber, paying grim homage to atrocities of the deposed Iraqi president's rule.

Rumsfeld stood atop a mound of powdery dirt overlooking the graves of about 900 people summarily executed during a Shiite Muslim uprising after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. They were the unidentified among more than 3,000 massacre victims unearthed in Al Hillah, a 1,000-year-old city near the site of ancient Babylon, shortly after American forces moved through last spring on the way to Baghdad.

Dr. Rafid al-Hussuni, a physician who lost two uncles and two close friends in the massacre, stood beside a somber Rumsfeld and explained his efforts to safeguard mass graves around the country.

Al-Hussuni was involved in the Al Hillah exhumations and started a volunteer group to counsel patience among Iraqis desperate to open the mass graves to find the remains of loved ones. Hasty and haphazard searches could destroy evidence in possible criminal prosecution of those responsible.

"If you can arrest all those people and put them on trial, the hearts of the Iraqi people will be satisfied," said al-Hussuni, who still has not found the remains of his uncles or his friends.

The visit was part of Rumsfeld's third day of a tour of Iraq to see results of the invasion he helped direct from the Pentagon.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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