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Thursday, April 15

Biden: Firm leadership needed in Iraq

By Jon Frandsen | GNS

WASHINGTON - Administration missteps are pushing Iraq toward a broad-based anti-America insurgency that must be stopped by sending in more U.S. troops and turning most control of the country over to an international body, Sen. Joseph Biden said Thursday.

``We desperately need to take the American face off of the occupation,'' Biden said in a speech sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ``Iraqi nationalism is on the rise, bringing Sunni and Shia factions together against us.''

Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been one of Bush's staunchest Democratic allies on Iraq and the broader war on terrorism. But he lambasted administration officials for a policy of ``hubris and arrogance'' that has jeopardized not just the occupation of Iraq but the stability of the entire Middle East.

``Abandoning Iraq to chaos will put radicals in the region on the offensive and moderates and modernizers in retreat,'' he said. ``Watch out Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.''

But the Delaware Democrat said that while time is growing short, success is still possible if Bush takes three immediate steps:

- Send more troops to make the country more secure, which would make Iraqis feel safer and give potential allies ``confidence that they will not be walking into a quagmire.''

- Create ``an international board of directors,'' either the U.N. Security Council or an informal group that includes most European allies, Arab countries and Russia, that can take responsibility for turning control of Iraq over to a provisional government by the June 30 deadline. A senior representative of that board would take the place of Paul Bremer as the leading civilian authority and speak for the international community, not just the United States.

- Win the United Nations' blessing of the new approach with a new U.N. Security Council Resolution. ``Foreign leaders need political cover to convince their people who opposed the war to help build the peace,'' he said.Combining the power needed to secure Iraq with the legitimacy that greater international involvement should bring to the occupation is the only way to engender ``the emergence of that silent majority of Iraqis who can provide an alternative to the extremes,'' Biden said.

Biden warned that Bush's advisers would be split on this approach, but that it was up to Bush to settle the matter decisively.

''It's time for leadership,'' Biden said.

But Biden said Bush might be reluctant to act despite the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq.

"I fear the administration is far more worried about conceding mistakes than it is concerned about sticking to a failed policy," he said.