White House scolds RP over Iraq withdrawal

WASHINGTON-The White House scolded the Philippines Thursday for deciding to pull its forces from Iraq ahead of schedule to save the life of a Filipino hostage, saying the move sent "the wrong signal" to terrorists.

"It's disappointing to see a decision that sends the wrong signal to terrorists," spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"You cannot negotiate with terrorists or make a separate peace with terrorists. And we understand that they have made the decision to withdraw their 51 troops ahead of schedule," McClellan added.

Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed similar sentiments, saying giving in to kidnappers only encourages them, and praising by name South Korea and Bulgaria -- both of which have troops in Iraq -- for "not blinking and not faltering even though they are being tested mightily by kidnappings and by beheadings.

"This kind of action cannot be allowed to succeed anywhere in the 21st century, above all not Iraq," Powell said in a speech at the US Institute of Peace.

"In these difficult times we have to remain steadfast."

In Manila, Foreign Secretary Delia Albert announced Wednesday that the troop pullout had begun, suggesting that eight members of the 51-member contingent had already left the war-torn country.

Following the decision, hostage Angelo de la Cruz, abducted last week by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq -- Khalid Ibn al-Walid Brigade, appeared in a video broadcast on Al-Jazeera television and said he would be coming home soon.

But the kidnappers made it clear they would only free De la Cruz after the departure of the last member of the 51-man Philippine contingent from Iraq by the end of the month, a new deadline, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported in its Friday issue.

The kidnappers had demanded that Manila advance the pullout of its contingent by a month to July 20 and threatened to execute the father of eight if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo failed to heed their call.

Despite the Philippines' withdrawal, McClellan said that part of US President George W. Bush's "plan for success in Iraq was broadening international support. And we are making great progress in that respect."

McClellan pointed to the unanimously approved UN Security Council resolution that endorsed Iraq's interim government, as well as NATO's commitment to help train Iraqi security forces.

16/07/2004

Bron : INQ7.net

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