Straw backs swift handover in Iraq

British foreign secretary Jack Straw says a swifter transfer of power to Iraqis will improve security in the war-ravaged Middle Eastern nation.

    The British foreign secretary did not hear the blasts of rockets

    He was speaking in Baghdad on Wednesday hours after guerrillas fired rockets at the fortified compound where he was staying.

    Straw, on a previously unannounced visit, told reporters he had been unaware of the blasts that echoed across Baghdad on Tuesday night and prompted an alarm in the sprawling compound of the US-British administration.

    "Attack. Take cover. This is not a test," blared loudspeakers at the compound in one of Saddam Hussein's former palace complexes. Sirens wailed, flares lit up the night sky and U.S. helicopters clattered overhead.

    In October, guerrillas rocketed a strongly fortified hotel inside the compound where U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying. One U.S. soldier was killed.

    A spokesman for the U.S. 1st Armored Division said at least two rockets had been fired in Tuesday's attack in Baghdad, but caused no casualties.

    Two Iraqi police were wounded in a separate rocket-propelled grenade attack near a petrol station.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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