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Armitage: U.S. walks 'fine line' in Iraq

Plan exists to cede control, deputy secretary of state says

Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage
The United States has "a very solid plan" to catch Iraqi militants, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Saturday.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- As attacks against U.S.-led coalition troops continued Saturday, a top State Department official said the United States has a solid plan in place to hand over Iraq to a "credible organization" as soon as possible.

Hours after two U.S. soldiers were killed and one wounded in a vehicle explosion, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the United States is walking a fine line in Iraq.

"We do realize that it's a fine line between liberator and occupier, we're trying to walk that and we're trying to make the point that as soon as we can turn over sovereignty to a credible organization that has assurance that they can make it in the long run, we will do so and we will be gone," he said on CNN's "Saturday Morning."

At a news conference earlier Saturday, Armitage said he is "very convinced we have a very solid plan to catch these people killing us and killing Iraqis."

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He said the United States supports the development of a civil-defense corps -- a level of authority between police and soldiers.

Also Saturday, Armitage said he did not know of any last-minute offer from Iraqi officials to avoid war with the United States but said Washington received "some overtures from various people."

A Lebanese-American businessman said this week that last winter, he relayed an offer from Iraqi leaders to a top Pentagon official to avert war by releasing a man tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, allowing the FBI to search Iraq and holding free elections. (CNN Access: Imad Hage)

The Pentagon official told the businessman, Imad Hage, that no one from the Pentagon was willing to meet with the intermediary, Hage said.

Pentagon officials dismissed any suggestion that the Iraqi offer could have avoided war.

Details of the proposed deal were first reported Wednesday night on ABC and Newsweek.com, and in Thursday's editions of The Washington Post.

Armitage said he plans to meet with Egyptian and Saudi leaders Sunday.


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