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Australia, U.S. Criticize Philippine Iraq Withdrawal

Officials fear the Philippine withdrawal will only spur more hostage taking 16 July 2004 -- Australia and the United States, both allies of the Philippines, have criticized the country for pulling its peacekeeping forces from Iraq early as part of efforts to secure the release of a Filipino hostage held by a militant group.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he doubted the move would gain the Philippines "immunity" from future terrorist activity. "It's a wretched state of affairs, but if you give in [to terrorists], you won't stop it happening again -- you will invite people [terrorists] to do it [terrorist acts] with increasing severity, because they will know they succeed," he said.

Earlier, U.S. President George W. Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the Philippine decision sends the wrong signal because terrorists cannot be negotiated with.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said today that the head of the Philippines' contingent in Iraq would be leaving the country along with 10 other members, and the rest of the 51-member contingent would be out of Iraq shortly.

Meanwhile, Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has urged Muslim countries to send peacekeeping troops to help stabilize Iraq. In an interview with AP, he called on the international community, including members of the Islamic world, to close ranks to prevent terrorists from winning or gaining in Iraq.

Allawi said he expected insurgents to strike harder in the coming weeks in a bid to derail his new administration.

Yesterday, Allawi announced the creation of a new intelligence service, the General Security Directorate, to focus on destroying the insurgents.

The announcement came as at least 11 people were reported killed in bombing and shooting attacks, and northern Iraqi oil exports were disrupted when insurgents attacked a pipeline connecting to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

In other news, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera television channel has done a "horrible" job of covering the news.

Powell said in Washington that U.S. officials must speak out about Al-Jazeera because the channel "takes every opportunity" to slant the news and present it in "the most outrageous way." He cited the station broadcasting tapes from terrorists and inflammatory material.

Powell said U.S. officials had spoken about the channel with the leaders of Qatar, which substantially funds its operations. However, he denied that the United States was trying to control the media. "We have made it clear that we do not want to suppress the media, we are not trying to control the media," he said.

Powell said he was pleased that Al-Jazeera had recently unveiled a code of ethics to promote balanced and sensitive coverage. The Arabic satellite television channel announced the guidelines on 14 July, saying it will take account of Western and Arab sensitivities when considering whether to broadcast gory images of violence. But the station defended its right to report what it called "the ugly face of war."


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