Iraq insurgents deny contact with US

June 27, 2005

The Islamic Army in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda Organisation in the Land of Two Rivers and Ansar al-Sunna have denied they have met US representatives over the violence in Iraq.

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has confirmed a British newspaper report that US officials had contacted insurgents in a bid to stem the violence plaguing Iraq but insisted such overtures were commonplace.

The Islamic Army in Iraq has vowed to punish any insurgents who did so, according to an Internet statement.

"The leadership of the Islamic Army in Iraq categorically denies that its representatives have negotiated with the crusaders either directly or indirectly," said the statement whose authenticity could not be verified.

"Whoever does so will receive the appropriate punishment," it added.

Mr Rumsfeld says US forces will not defeat Iraq's rebels but will make way for Iraqis to put down an insurgency that could go on for a decade or more.

His remarks came on another day of bloodshed on which three suicide attacks around the northern city of Mosul killed more than 30 people, many of them police officers.

It highlighted the task faced by Iraq's US-trained forces against a Sunni Arab revolt, backed by foreign Islamists, against the new Shiite-led Government.

"That insurgency can go on for any number of years," Mr Rumsfeld said in a US television interview.

"Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years. Foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency.

"We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency."

US President George W Bush told Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari in Washington on Friday there would be no timetable for troop withdrawal, despite pressure from opposition Democrats who accuse Mr Bush of leading US troops into a "quagmire" in Iraq.

He is due to make a keynote speech on Iraq on Tuesday.

Responding to a report in a British newspaper, quoting unnamed Iraqi sources, that US officials this month met purported insurgents, US and Iraqi officials repeated that there are continual consultations with tribal leaders, clerics and others who profess to represent elements of the insurgency.

However, they were adamant that these were not negotiations and any talks had not involved the most violent groups such as Ansar al-Sunna, named by the Sunday Times, or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group.

Mr Rumsfeld said: "Meetings take place all the time."

Iraq attacks
In the space of a few hours a suicide car bomber wrecked a police headquarters, killing 12, an attack on an Iraqi army base killed at least 16 people and five police officers were killed when a bomber walked into Mosul's main hospital and blew himself up.

The attack on the hospital's police post damaged the ward where casualties had been brought from the earlier incidents, responsibility for which was claimed by Al Qaeda's Iraq wing, led by Zarqawi.

In Baghdad, six policemen were killed by a suicide bomber as they were pulling into their base, police said.

The deputy head of a city police department was also assassinated.

The Mosul car bomber drove at a police headquarters at Bab al-Toob in the city centre, striking a rear wall to bring down a section of the old, two-storey building and devastate surrounding market stalls as people started the working day.

Ten police officers and two civilians were killed and eight people were wounded, the US military in Mosul said in a statement.

The Defence Ministry said a suicide bomber killed 15 people and wounded 15, mostly civilians, at an army post at Kasak, near Mosul.

The US military put the dead at 16. Soldiers turned the bomber away from the base and he walked toward a crowd of civilians, the ministry said in a statement.

Medical staff in Mosul said most of the casualties were building workers from the base.