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sent by Nicholas. Senior cleric targeted in latest Iraq violence By Gareth Smyth in Baghdad and Edward Alden in Washington Published: August 24 2003 20:27 | Last Updated: August 24 2003 20:27 http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1059479268206&p=1012571727172 A senior Shia cleric was the target of a bombing in the central Iraqi city of Najaf yesterday that killed three guards and wounded 10 people, the latest in a string of attacks at the weekend that underscored the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. Ayatollah Mohammed Said al-Hakim, one of Iraq's most senior Shia clerics, escaped with cuts to the neck. Ayatollah Hakim recently told the Financial Times that the measures taken by US-led occupation forces against supporters of the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein were not strong enough, and called for the transfer of more decision-making in security and other fields to Iraqis. A spokesman for Sciri, the leading Shia Muslim political group, said last night it had begun an investigation into the bombing, and suspected it was the work of loyalists of the former regime. US-led forces have a very limited presence in Najaf, which is a scholastic city revered as the burial place of Imam Ali, son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed. The bombing came on a weekend when ethnic clashes between Turkomen and Kurds broke out in the northern city of Kirkuk, leading to several fatalities. In southern Iraq, three British soldiers died on Saturday in an attack on their vehicle as it left their military headquarters in Basra, the mainly Shia southern city, bringing the number of British fatalities to 10 since president US George W. Bush declared hostilities over on May 1. The deteriorating security situation in Iraq has raised pressure on the Bush administration to increase troop deployments in Iraq or to move more determinedly to persuade other governments to send forces. Paul Bremer, who heads the US Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said on Fox News Sunday that a growing number of al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists had been infiltrating Iraq from Syria and Saudi Arabia. "I suppose they could calculate that if [they] succeed in Iraq, it will change the entire structure of this area of the world," he said. "It shows what the stakes are for all Americans. We've got to win this fight here." Joe Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, said on NBC News that "we need more troops, we need more cops, we need more civilian affairs people". He said the US needs to "swallow our pride" and go back to the United Nations to seek international support. He warned unless Mr Bush seeks greater international help, "we are going to lose the American people's support for this undertaking". A Newsweek poll published at the weekend indicated that US public enthusiasm for the Iraqi campaign is waning. A slim majority of 48 to 47 per cent said the US should withdraw from Iraq if current trends continued, while 55 per cent were opposed to putting more US troops in Iraq. Sixty per cent also said the US should reduce spending on Iraq. The US has tried to shore up support both domestically and internationally by portraying the recent attacks in Iraq as the latest and most important battle in the global war on terrorism. Mr Bush on Friday called Iraq "one of the major battles of the first war of the 21st century". The Bush administration has insisted that, while it wants an increased international presence, additional US troops are not currently needed. General John Abizaid, who commands the US force in Iraq, has said that the US's immediate need is for better intelligence, not more troops. But General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, yesterday said the administration would not oppose a request from General Abizaid. "If he wants more troops he can have more troops," he said on NBC News. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk