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EU Officials Outraged over Baghdad Bombings

EU Officials Outraged over Baghdad Bombings

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- European Union officials were outraged by Monday's string of bombings in Baghdad, particularly a strike against the international Red Cross, and they expressed concern over security in Iraq.

It was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since Saddam Hussein's regime fell in April, with dozens of people, mostly Iraqis, killed in bombings at police stations and the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"The situation is not very good but I don't think it is going to get out of control at all," the EU's foreign policy representative, Javier Solana, said before a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.

In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman called the attacks "evil and wicked."

"The terrorists and criminals responsible for them are obviously the enemies of the Iraqi people in as much as they are deliberately targeting those organizations who are helping to build toward a free and stable Iraq," he said.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reacted with "shock and outrage."

"I will just make this clear: We will not be deterred by this kind of outrage," Straw said.

He called the security situation in Baghdad "unsatisfactory" but said "overall the situation across Iraq is getting better."

"The fact that terrorists have yet again targeted not U.S. or U.K. troops but an international organization ... shows the depth of depravity to which they stoop," he said.

Germany said it was considering withdrawing four water-supply experts from Iraq because of concerns about security.

The specialists from a government-run development agency were sent to Iraq in September, signaling Berlin's willingness to help in reconstruction despite its opposition to the U.S.-led war.

"If the security situation is so dangerous that it is no longer possible to work effectively, they will be withdrawn," said German Interior Ministry spokesman Daniel Hoeltgen.

Germany and France condemned the attacks and said a key to stopping such violence was a quick restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

"In the face of such acts of violence, it is more urgent than ever to embark on a political process, based on the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, mobilizing all energy toward the country's reconstruction," said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous.

He said France "condemns with the utmost firmness" the wave of car bombings and attacks in Baghdad on Sunday and Monday.

Added Germany's Hoeltgen: "We will have no progress in (Iraq's) internal stabilization without a clear political perspective. In concrete terms, that means we need as soon as possible steps to put responsibility for the country in the hands of the Iraqi people."

France and Germany were the leading opponents of the war that ousted Saddam Hussein and have been pushing for a quick transfer of power back to Iraqis.

At spokesman at the EU's head office, the European Commission, expressed concern about the impact on relief efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which are partly funded by the EU.

"The ICRC has never been involved in the politics of the situation in Iraq," said commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen. "Its presence there is solely to deliver lifesaving humanitarian aid."

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

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