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Rumsfeld urges expanded Iraqi security role

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, right, attended a change of command ceremony this week at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida before leaving for the Persian Gulf region.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, right, attended a change of command ceremony this week at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida before leaving for the Persian Gulf region.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- On a trip Thursday to get a glimpse of conditions in Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that Iraqis need to play an increasingly active role in providing security in the war-torn country.

"The one thing everyone's agreed upon for sure is that we simply have to keep increasing the number of Iraqis that are involved in the security side," Rumsfeld said in Kuwait before his arrival in Iraq.

"We're up to 50,000 or 60,000 and headed toward 100,000. We've got to find ways to accelerate the process."

The defense chief said that the U.S.-led coalition will begin to rebuild the Iraqi army and that the CIA and Coalition Provisional Authority are working to develop an Iraqi intelligence service.

"There's no question you've got to have an intelligence capability," Rumsfeld said, "and the question is, how do you do it and who do you use and [with] what vetting process. So they're thinking those things through right now."

When he arrived in Iraq, Rumsfeld met with U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer. He'll also see other civilian and military leaders and U.S. troops.

Bremer and Rumsfeld talked about a variety of issues, including the country's infrastructure. Rumsfeld also got a look at the sprawling capital from an aircraft.

The trip comes as Washington is circulating a draft U.N. resolution that would give the United Nations a greater role in Iraq's political and economic reconstruction but would let the United States keep a dominant role in any multinational peacekeeping mission.

Rumsfeld told reporters on a plane to the Persian Gulf region that no additional American forces are needed in Iraq.

About 150,000 U.S. troops are stationed in the country, along with about 20,000 troops from Britain and other allies. On Wednesday, a Polish-led multinational division of more than 8,000 took over responsibility for security in most of south-central Iraq.

Rumsfeld said he supported the Bush administration's decision to go to the United Nations to seek a wider security force for Iraq.

"I think the idea of going to the U.N., seeking an appropriate resolution, possibly having the effect of broadening somewhat the coalition, although it's quite broad at the present time, is a good thing for Iraq," he said. "I think it's a good thing for the region."

At the Pentagon, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "It's important the international community participate in Iraq."

Myers said the effort to involve as many countries as possible "has an awful lot to do with the Iraqi people and how they perceive coalition forces."

"The last thing we want is for them to believe it's a mission of the United States," he said. "It's so important for the international community to pull together on this."

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said he agreed that "we do not need additional U.S. forces."

Troops face daily attacks from Iraqi guerrillas who oppose the U.S. occupation. On Thursday, two U.S. soldiers were wounded in an explosion in Ramadi, a town 60 miles (96 miles) west of Baghdad.

In the north-central city of Tikrit, the 4th Infantry Division reported that a unit, responding to a report about mortar fire, was fired upon by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

A battle broke out, and at least one house caught fire. There were some small explosions. After the fire subsided, the soldiers inspected the area and found a cache of weapons.

In another incident in Tikrit, four Iraqis were detained on suspicion of involvement in making improvised explosive devices.

Tikrit is the hometown of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Correspondent Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.


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