Iraqis 'indifferent' on Bush speech

Mortars and gunfire rock Baghdad after the US president addresses congress.

    Iraqis faced another day of violence in Baghdad after Bush delivered his speech [AFP]
    "All Iraqis can hear this morning is explosions - there are mortars going off and there is a heavy gun battle going on just a couple of hundred metres away.
     
    "This is what Iraqis are listening to."
     
    Baghdad fighting
     
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    What was taking place was yet another clash between US and Iraqi troops on the one hand and armed men on the other hand, in a Sunni fighters' stronghold north of the fortified Green Zone.
     
    Jabbar al-Mashhadani, a cultural ministry spokesman, told AP that US and Iraqi forces rushed into the building on the edge of Haifa Street at 9am local time and told all the employees to go home as they fanned out and sent snipers to the roof.
     
    Officials said at least one civilian was killed in Wednesday's fighting.
     
    According to hospital and police officials, seven people were wounded in the clashes, which began on a smaller scale on Tuesday.
     
    Six fighters with automatic weapons and some bombs and three other suspects were arrested near a secondary school in the area, an Iraqi army official said.
     
    'Iranian influence'
     
    Bush is seeking to send to 21,500 extra troops to Iraq in a "surge" it says is to combat the sectarian violence in and around the capital.

    The US leader also warned of the growing influence of "Shia extremists" who he said received support from Tehran.
     
    Mohammed Marandi, a political analyst at the University of Tehran, told Al Jazeera that Bush was trying to blame Iran for the problems the US had caused in the region.
     
    "They have to frighten the region as well as US public opinion," he said.
     

    US armoured vehicles patrolling Haifa Street
    in Baghdad, scene of daily clashes [Reuters]

    "There is nothing new in this speech and I think Iranians were expecting this."
     
    Marandi also rejected a claim by Bush that Tehran was trying to develop nuclear weapons.
     
    "The accusation about nuclear weapons is nonsense and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has never found any evidence of weapons in Iran."
     
    If the US was prepared to enter a dialogue with Iran, Marandi said, then the nuclear issue could be resolved.
     
    "If the US changes its approach then it would solve the problem."
     
    However, some analysts saw encouraging signs in the president's criticism of Iranian involvement in Iraq.
     
    Positive elements
     
    Abdullah al-Nufaisi, a former Kuwaiti MP and political analyst, told Al Jazeera he was "encouraged" by this element of the address.
     
    "He is pointing to Iranian involvement in sectarian violence in Iraq," he said. "And we go together with president Bush on that."
     
    Daniel Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the US, told Al Jazeera he was pleased that international pressure had been focused on Iran.
     
    And he rejected concern that Bush had not mentioned resolving the conflict with the Palestinians as a priority in his speech. "The US could not do any more to be further involved in this issue," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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