Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday called dozens of foreign leaders to bolster support for the US-led occupation, further shaken by a pullout threat from Thailand.

"I think the coalition is still strong, despite the events of the week," Powell said, after meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

"The coalition remains strong because I think the coalition members know that they are doing important and vital work for the Iraqi people, for the region and for peace in the world," Powell said.

US denial

"The coalition remains strong because I think the coalition members know that they are doing important and vital work for the Iraqi people, for the region and for peace in the world"

Colin Powell
US Secretary of State


The White House firmly denied the occupation was fraying after a wave of fierce fighting and kidnappings in Iraq.

"Remember there are more than 30 nations who are participating in our efforts in Iraq, and we appreciate the strong statements reaffirming their commitment to helping the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

However, US officials said they were bracing for a possible Thai withdrawal after Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said it would withdraw its 400 troops if the situation becomes too dangerous.

Ten weeks before the occupation authority was due to transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqis, Pentagon officials also assured skeptical members of Congress that the US military would still be able to operate unhindered in the country.

"Our forces will have the authority and the wherewithal to do what they need to do, to provide security, as they must, for Iraq," General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.