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UK Ambassador: Iraq Is Likely to Break Up
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Iraq is sliding toward civil war, and is likely to divide eventually along ethnic lines, Britain's outgoing ambassador to the country warned in a memo to Prime Minister Tony Blair, according to a news report yesterday.


William Patey, who left his diplomatic post in Baghdad last week, said in the confidential report that the situation in Iraq could remain volatile for the next decade, BBC said.


The diplomat sent the memo to Blair, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and other leading legislators and military commanders, BBC reported.


Britain's Foreign Office said it was department policy not to comment on leaked documents, but acknowledged that Patey had set out similar views in a radio interview last week.


"The prospect of a low-intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy," BBC quoted Patey's memo as saying.


"Even the lowered expectation of President (George W.) Bush for Iraq a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror must remain in doubt."


Patey's diplomatic cable claims that Iraq's "position is not hopeless," but warns that the country is likely to remain "messy and difficult" for the next five to 10 years, BBC said.


He also warned that to avoid a descent into civil war, there must be greater effort directed at policing militia groups, including the Mahdi Army.


"Preventing the Jaish al Mahdi from developing into a state within a state, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority," Patey's memo said, according to BBC.


In an interview with BBC radio's "Today" program last week, Patey said there was evidence of police collusion with death squads and militias, and that Iraqis had lost all confidence in law enforcement officers.


But the Foreign Office said Patey also had acknowledged at the time that he did not feel any sense "of hopelessness or despair" about the future of Iraq, and that he believed the Iraqi government was capable of improving conditions.


"Everyday the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to manage their own security is growing," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said, on condition of anonymity in line with policy.


She said the handover last month of the southern Muthana Province from British troops to Iraqi forces was "the beginning of a process which will culminate in the Iraqis taking full command of their own destiny."


Officials at Britain's Defense Ministry have said the handovers of two further provinces are likely to take place within months.


However, BBC said Patey's memo cautioned against making any swift repatriation of troops, stressing that talk of any early exit from Iraq would weaken the position of coalition soldiers who remain.


Patey's concerns echo the assessment of former Ambassador to Iraq Sir Jeremy Greenstock, London's representative in Baghdad until 2004.


(China Daily August 4, 2006)


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