The Washington Post reported that US officials declined to say how many of Hussein’s spies would be used, but Iraqi officials said the number could be in the hundreds

"We're reaching out very widely," one US official told the Post, speaking on condition of anonymity.

US officials said the new approach reflected a growing awareness that the occupation forces alone could not prevent resistance operations.

"The only way you can combat terrorism is through intelligence," another US official was quoted as saying. "Without Iraqi input, that's not going to work."

US military commanders have also decided to ease off on large-scale sweeps of Iraqi neighbourhoods aimed at flushing out members of the Iraqi resistance.

Those sweeps have caused resentment and could increase support for the resistance movement, the Post said.

"It is now unfortunately the case that Iraq has become one of the fields of battle in this global war"

Paul Bremer
US administrator in Iraq

The re-evaluation of security procedures in Iraq came on the same day of a US warning that Iraq was on the frontline of the battle against terrorism.

"It is now unfortunately the case that Iraq has become one of the fields of battle in this global war" on terror, Bremer told reporters.

While Bremer said he believes most of the attacks against US troops and other targets in Iraq are being carried out by remnants of Saddam Hussein's ousted government, there is an "emerging problem" of foreign fighters entering the country.

"We are now seeing a large number of international terrorists coming into Iraq," he said on ABC television's "This Week," asserting that they were crossing from Syria and Iran.

Too few troops

Bremer did not agree with those calling for the United States to add to the 140,000 troops it already has in the country, but favoured instead a more multinational contingent to replace portions of US troops, as outlined by Bush.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain pressed during a visit to Iraq for more troops to deal with increasingly sophisticated attacks against US forces and strategic targets. "Time is not on our side," McCain told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"What we do in the next several months will determine whether we're in a very difficult situation or not."

Bremer said he had never asked for more troops, adding: "I agree with the CENTCOM commander, John Abizaid, who said earlier this week ... he believes we have enough troops here."

Washington's top general shares that opinion. "The number of troops won't help us with these random acts of violence," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on NBC. "We are very busy right now, our forces are stretched. I have never said we are stretched too thin."

Bush's popularity declining

The deteriorating situation in Iraq is eroding Bush's appeal with the US electorate, according to recent poll figures. In a Newsweek magazine poll released this weekend, 49% of registered voters would not want Bush to return for a second term.

That number compares with 44% who would vote for Bush if the elections took place now.

The poll also has revealed that 69% of Americans are convinced the United States will get bogged down in Iraq, while 66% said the US government was spending too much on rebuilding Iraq.

Bush's popularity is beginning to
wane

Meanwhile, Iraq's US-sponsored 25-member Governing Council sent a delegation to Egypt for meetings in an attempt to win legitimacy around the Arab world.

The Iraqi delegation was led by Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the council's current head, who announced his team would hold meetings with Egyptian Foreign Secretary Ahmed Maher and Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa.

Cold shoulder for Iraqi Council

“There is no reason not to represent Iraq in the Arab League, particularly after ousting the former Iraqi regime”, al-Jaafari said in an interview with Aljazeera TV.

Until now, Arab states have given the Governing Council the cold shoulder, refusing to recognise it as representative of the Iraqi people.

But the United States has pressed Arab governments to back the council as it attempts to erect a democratic system in Iraq.

The Iraqi delegates arrived in Cairo from Saudi Arabia where they met Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz.

Jaafari, who was not joined by Maher in a news conference which followed their talks, said that by inviting the council to meet their officials, Arab states were moving closer to recognising its legitimacy.

Egypt, a close US ally, had said it would receive the delegation as Iraqi individuals, not as council representatives.

Jaafari said: "We didn't come here on a personal level and we didn't come for tourism. We came here on political business."