Major General Rick Lynch, a US military spokesman, said on Thursday: "We are finding indications where Iraqi rejectionists are taking up arms and informing on terrorists and foreign fighters.

 

"The area where we are seeing it is in Ramadi."

 

According to the US military, the revolt in Iraq is made up of supporters of Saddam Hussein, non-Iraqi Arab fighters, and an element they call "rejectionists" that disagrees with the presence of US-led forces.

 

"As part of our operation with the Iraqi security forces we are looking to drive a wedge between the Iraqi population and specifically the terrorists and foreign fighters," said Lynch.

 

The US military believes the rejectionist element can be neutralised through political progress in the country.

 

Lynch also said that Iraqis are increasingly informing US-led forces about the activities and whereabouts of foreign Islamist fighters in Salah al-Din, Diyala and particularly al-Anbar province.

 

After boycotting last January's elections, the predominantly Sunni Arab population of Ramadi, capital of al-Anbar province, participated in much larger numbers in the 15 December legislative elections.

 

Al-Anbar has been the scene of numerous attacks against the US army in Iraq and the forces of the US-backed Iraqi government.

 

Figures

Pan-Arab National in Beirut, an organisation consisting of hundreds of independent Pan-Arab nationalists, issued a report summerising the operation of the "Iraqi resistance" in 2005.

 

Losses of US-led forces in Iraq in 2005:

-
1449 US soldiers killed
-
2352 US soldiers injured
-
105 coalition soldiers killed
- 140 coalition soldiers injured
-
569 items of military machinery destroyed
-
152 tanks destroyed
-
25 helicopters shot down

Source: Pan-Arab National Forum

The report claims a noticable progress in the techniques used by "Iraqis resisting the US occupation".

 

The report gives figures of lossess sustained by US-led forces in Iraq collated from various media outlets and news agencies.

 

Peter Rodman, an assistant defence secretary for international affairs, at a conference in Washington on Wednesday, said: "We saw three successful elections last year... In that success of those elections, you can see the gravitational pole working on the Sunni Arab population pulling them into the political process.

 

"We hope this will separate them from the extremists," Rodman said. 

 

Female prisoners

The US military does not expect to release Iraqi women detainees in the near future, a move demanded by kidnappers to spare the life of an American journalist, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.

 

Carroll is working for the
Christian Science Monitor

Navy Lieutenant-Commander Joe Carpenter said that eight Iraqi women who are being held by the United States in Iraq are going through the normal process of review to see if they will be released or continue to be held.

 

"There is no expected resolution of their cases in the near future," Carpenter said.    

 

"There is no accelerated process with regards to the women and how it relates to the kidnapped journalist in question," he added.

 

He was responding to questions about the threat by kidnappers to kill US journalist Jill Carroll unless all women held by the US military in Iraq were released.

No negotiation

The US has said repeatedly it does not negotiate with kidnappers or terrorists.

 

Carroll's kidnappers had threatened to kill her within 72 hours unless all Iraqi women detainees were freed.

 

On Thursday, Iraq's Justice Ministry said US forces would release six Iraqi women prisoners but that the move was not related to the kidnappers' demands.

 

Carroll, 28, is a freelance journalist working for the Christian Science Monitor. She was siezed in a Baghdad street on 7 January and her translator was killed.