This is a transcript from AM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 08:00 on ABC Local Radio.
TONY EASTLEY: British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will head for Washington later this week, no doubt to help shore up the stocks of the coalition of the willing.
Human Rights Watch
It’s been a bloody April in Iraq, the heaviest period of fighting since Saddam Hussein fell.
About 70 coalition troops have died and perhaps 10 times that number of Iraqis have been killed in fighting.
But as the British Prime Minister prepares for his trip, there are rumblings of disquiet from within British forces about the hardline American tactics adopted this week.
But the US military doesn’t see it that way, and nor does President George W. Bush.
From Washington, John Shovelan reports.
JOHN SHOVELAN: At the beginning of a week of high Washington diplomacy, Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, told President Bush he was worried about the violence in Iraq.
HOSNI MUBARAK: I conveyed to the President our serious concerns about the current state of affairs…
JOHN SHOVELAN: But President Bush defended the US crackdown against Sunnis and Shi’ites as necessary to clear obstacles to the transition to Iraqi rule.
GEORGE BUSH: There was lawlessness and gangs that were trying to take the law in their own hands.
JOHN SHOVELAN: British officers are reported as highly critical of the way the US military has put down resistance.
A senior British officer in southern Iraq is quoted saying: “My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans’ use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they’re facing. They’re not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are.”
He went on: “The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. As far as they are concerned, Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them.”
But Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, head of US forces in Iraq, strongly defended the US tactics, which have included the use of heavy armour and artillery.
RICARDO SANCHEZ: It is very clear where we’re taking fire from and where we’re taking fire from we’re applying the appropriate, proportionate combat power to eliminate that resistance. We are being very deliberate and precise in the application of that combat power to prevent any wounding or injuring of non-combatants in the area.
JOHN SHOVELAN: British Prime Minister Tony Blair is being pressed to raise the issue with President Bush when they meet later this week.
President Bush dismissed the criticism saying he was proud of how the US military had conducted combat operations.
GEORGE BUSH: Our job is to provide security for the Iraqi people so that a transition can take place and that’s what you were seeing. And our job also is to protect American lives. If our soldiers are at risk they will defend themselves.
And I’m proud of the fact that our soldiers did so, mindful that there are innocent Iraqis, often times in between them and an enemy that is shooting at them. We’re a compassionate country that cares about the loss of innocent life.
JOHN SHOVELAN: Under increasing pressure to outline a clear plan for Iraq, President Bush announced he would hold a very rare news conference tomorrow night.
GEORGE BUSH: So pick out a red or blue tie. See you at the East Room.
John Shovelan, Washington.
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