Rumsfeld: Iraq not fated to civil war
Insurgents not nationalists; Iraq not Vietnam, Pentagon chief says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday tried to dispel concern over the possibility that a civil war could erupt in Iraq between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs.
"People have been moving together, talking, discussing things," Rumsfeld said. "You can always find someone who's going to try to be a dead-ender and say, 'If you don't do this, I won't do that.' But that's part of negotiation. We see that in the Congress and we see it in democratic systems all over the world."
His remarks came amid a report that a Sunni Arab official believes civil conflict could arise from differences over the draft constitution.
Although lawmakers handed over a draft to the national assembly Monday night, a gulf of disagreements remain between Shiite Arabs, who prevail in the transitional government, and Sunni Arabs, who prevailed under Saddam Hussein.
Iraq's interim prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said he expected negotiators to resolve those differences within a self-imposed three-day deadline. (Full story)
Rumsfeld praised the constitution-writing effort, saying "democracy has never been described as speedy, efficient or perfect."
"And, regrettably, completing the constitution is not likely to end all the violence in Iraq or solve all of the country's problems," he added.
Rumsfeld noted that the constitutional draft gives a nod to both democracy and Islamic principles.
Referring to comparisons to Vietnam made by some critics, Rumsfeld attacked arguments that any emerging government in Iraq is doomed to collapse under the insurgency.
"Their most prominent leaders are not Iraqis, they are not Ho Chi Minh's with a nationalist base, but in the case of Zarqawi a Jordanian murderer," Rumsfeld said.
"And their massacres of innocents have outraged most Iraqis, rather than attracting broad support. Indeed, polls indicate that the anger against the terrorists and the insurgents is growing."
Rumsfeld said that while the specter of civil war should draw attention and concern, "I haven't seen anything to indicate that the risk is greater today than it was yesterday or the day before."
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