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Iraq Transition

No military solution to Iraq, U.S. general says

Story Highlights

• No military solution to violence without political action, says U.S. commander
• Gen. David Petraeus says no immediate need to request more U.S. troops
• Peace prospects depend on political talks involving militant groups, Petraeus says
• Petraeus gives first news conference in Iraq since taking command last month
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The new commander of U.S. troops in Iraq has warned that military force alone will not be enough to quell the country's violent insurgency.

Speaking publicly Thursday for the first time since taking charge in Baghdad last month, Gen. David Petraeus said military action was necessary to improve security in Iraq but "not sufficient" to end violence altogether.

"There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus told a news conference, adding that political negotiations were crucial to forging any lasting peace.

Petraeus said talks should include "some of those who have felt the new Iraq did not have a place for them," and said a key challenge facing Iraq's government was to identify "reconcilable" militant groups and bring them inside the political process.

Petraeus took charge of the 140,000-strong U.S. force in Iraq last month. Since a successful invasion in 2003, which quickly overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime, U.S. forces have become bogged down by a combination of attacks by terrorist groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq and bloody sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shiite Iraqis.

On Thursday Petraeus said he saw no need to bolster troop numbers beyond reinforcements announced by the White House for a renewed effort to improve security in Baghdad and Anbar province. But he warned those troops committed to the campaign would likely remain in place "beyond the summer."

"This endeavor will take months -- not days or weeks to implement," he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday announced plans to send almost 5,000 additional troops to Iraq to serve as military police, bringing the planned "surge" to 26,000.

"Right now we do not see other requests [for troops] looming out there. That's not to say that some emerging mission or emerging task will not require that, and if it does then we will ask for that," Petraeus said.

Democrats in the House and Senate pushed legislation Thursday that would have U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by August 2008, or sooner if certain benchmarks of progress aren't met. But the White House said the president would veto any such proposal. (Full story)

Iraqi civilian safety would be a top priority during the security crackdown, Petraeus said, warning that militants had sought to intensify sectarian violence in anticipation of the U.S.-led security crackdown.

"As citizens feel safer, conditions will be set for the resumption and improvement of basic services," Petraeus said.

Petraeus' concerns about civilian safety come amidst a week filled with bloody attacks meted against Shiite pilgrims by militants he called "thugs with no soul."

More than 170 have been killed and nearly 300 wounded while making a religious journey -- many by foot -- to the holy city of Karbala to celebrate the holy day of Arbayeen, which falls on Saturday. (Full story)


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Gen. Petraeus, left, walks in central Baghdad this week.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

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