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U.S.: Bush Praises Iraqi Politicians As Criticism Mounts

President Bush praised Iraqi leaders for standing up to Al-Qaeda (epa) PRAGUE, April 30, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Even as U.S. President George W. Bush praised Iraqi politicians on April 29 for standing firm against the threats of militants, the conflict in Iraq is far from being completed.

Three years ago, Bush declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq. In his weekly radio address the president said the new government is likely to deal effectively with militants.

"The terrorists clearly recognize the threat that the new unity government poses to their dark plans for Iraq and the broader Middle East," he said. "This week the terrorist [Abu Mus'ab al-]Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, released a video in which he denounced the new government and promised further acts of terrorist violence. Zarqawi lashed out at what he called 'this rotten play of democracy' and declared that Iraq's new government will become 'a poisoned dagger' in the heart of his plans for the Muslim world."

In an Internet video posted earlier this week, al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, denounced the new Iraqi government and warned of "more painful" attacks.

Sectarian Violence Continues

Meanwhile, violence does not abate in the country.

Today, a bomb planted inside a minibus exploded in Baghdad's Shi'ite Al-Sadr City neighborhood, wounding seven people.

"It [the minibus] exploded when it arrived near the restaurant," an eyewitness told Reuters. "Some managed to get out of the vehicle before it exploded because the doors [of vehicle] were opened. So it did not hurt all the passengers. God willing, they are safe."

Sunni insurgents have stepped up bombings of buses in recent weeks, stirring already high sectarian passions. A bomb inside a minibus in Al-Sadr City earlier this week killed two people and wounded five.

Today, the U.S. military said that troops killed more than 20 foreign insurgents during raids south of Baghdad in the past few weeks. The raids took place in and around Al-Yusifiyah, a town about 20 kilometers south of Baghdad, where a U.S. helicopter apparently was shot down by insurgents nearly a month ago, killing the two soldiers aboard. The military said insurgents have been using the Al-Yusifiyah region as a staging area to conduct suicide attacks in Baghdad.

Protests, Criticism Grow

Meanwhile, a former top U.S. official has added his voice to those criticizing the Bush administration for its handling of the war.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking in an April 29 interview on Britain's ITV, said mistakes were made from the very beginning of the war.

"I have always been one who favors a larger military presence in an operation to make sure that you can deal with the unforeseen, but in the case of the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, you had institutions being destroyed, you had ministries being burned down, and I have said on many occasions, I don't think we had enough force there at that time to impose order and that's what we were responsible for, because when you have taken out a government, a regime, then you become responsible for the country," Powell said.

On April 29, tens of thousands of protestors marched through New York demanding an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as President Bush said more "sacrifice and struggle" lie ahead. The protest came as media reported that April was the deadliest month for U.S. soldiers in Iraq this year, with 69 killed as of April 28.

Sectarian Iraq

Sectarian Iraq

Click to enlarge the image.

SUNNI, SHI'A: Iraq is riven along sectarian lines, faults that frequently produce violent clashes and are a constant source of tension. Sectarian concerns drive much of Iraqi politics and are the main threat to the country's fragile security environment.

THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to view RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.