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Rumsfeld: Al Qaeda to up attacks as Iraq handover nears

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaks Friday aboard the USS Essex in Singapore.
Donald H. Rumsfeld
War Against Terror
Acts of terror

(CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday he thinks al Qaeda may step up attacks in Iraq in the next few weeks.

"There's a major effort [by al Qaeda] going on right now because of the U.S. decision to pass sovereignty on to Iraqis," Rumsfeld said, referring to the scheduled political handover to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.

In an interview with CNN, Rumsfeld said U.S. intelligence has intercepted al Qaeda communications "where they've indicated that they recognize that it's harder for them once the Iraqis again are managing their own country ... so I expect to see that they'll continue to put the heat on it, especially during this period."

Rumsfeld spoke aboard the USS Essex, meeting with military personnel as the amphibious assault ship sailed near Singapore.

He is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech Saturday at a Singapore meeting of defense ministers from Asian and Pacific countries.

The defense secretary compared U.S. efforts in the war on terrorism to a double-sided coin.

"Certainly in the central front of this global war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're making excellent progress," he said. "The other side of that coin is what's happening in terms of more terrorists coming into the various organizations, and of course there are schools that are teaching people to go out and kill innocent men, women and children."

Referring to anti-U.S. sentiment in the aftermath of the release of photos of prisoner treatment at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Rumsfeld said there is "a focused, precise, directed campaign against the United States in the media in parts of the world that is unhelpful to us."

He added, "We'll survive."

Regarding the resignation of CIA Director George Tenet, Rumsfeld said he and the agency's chief had "a very close institutional and personal relationship."

"I have a lot of respect for him, and we're going to miss him in the government of the United States," Rumsfeld said.

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