U.S. arrogant, stupid in Iraq: American diplomat

A senior U.S. diplomat has criticized his country's role in Iraq as President George W. Bush said the United States is still expecting to win the war, but is changing its tactics.

A senior U.S. diplomat has criticized his country'srole inIraq as PresidentGeorge W. Bush said the United States is still expecting to win the war, but is changing its tactics.

"We tried to do our best but I think there is much room for criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq,"Alberto Fernandez, an Arabic-speaking diplomat in the State Department's bureau of Near Eastern affairs, saidon Al-Jazeera television on Saturday.

An administration official wondered whether the translation was accurate, the Associated Press reported. The unidentified official said Fernandez was not repeating the administration position.

Earlier Saturday, Bush met with Pentagon generals to discuss the situation in Iraq, which is perceived to be getting worse — three marines andat least 18 civilians were killed Saturday — and has become an issue in the U.S. midterm elections, set for Nov. 7.

Bush said the U.S. goal is victory in Iraq, but "what is changing are the tactics we use to achieve that goal." No details were available, but a U.S. general admitted recently that a campaign to end the violence in Baghdad by putting extra U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in the capital had failed.

U.S. open to talks

Fernandez also said that the solution in Iraq requires national reconciliation, and the U.S. is ready to talk with any group except al-Qaeda in Iraq. That suggests that the the U.S. will talk with the Sunni and Shia factions that have reduced the country to a state akin to civil war.

He said thesectarian fighting, and the insurgency — which involves both al-Qaeda and the Baath Party, which ran Iraq under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein — was not just the fault of the U.S.

"We are witnessing failure in Iraq and that's not the failure of the United States alone. But it is a disaster for the region."

Iraqi insurgents are marching openly in some cities, and a man claiming to speak for the outlawed Baath party said Saturday that the U.S. was seeking a "face-saving" way out of the country.

The deaths of three marines Saturday raised U.S. casualties to 78 so far in October, making it the worst month this year.

As the death toll mounts and Bush's strategy appears to be in trouble, opposition Democrats have been increasing their attacks on the government's handling of the war.

Diane Farrell, aDemocratic candidate for Congress inConnecticut, Saturday said Bush should fire Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, andthe government should set up defined terms for the departure of U.S. soldiers.

"We need a new direction in Iraq," she said in the Democrats'weekly national radio address.

While U.S. deaths are a political issue in the United States,the daily toll of Iraqi civilians is an indicationof theproblems with the U.S. approach.

A bomb blast and a subsequent mortar attack killed at least 18 people and wounded 52 in an outdoor market in thecity of Mahmoudiyah near Baghdad on Saturday.