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Iraq PM worried about US troops killing civilians

IRAQ: Iraq?s new prime minister, clearly determined to assert his sovereign authority, said his patience was wearing thin with excuses from U.S. troops that they kill civilians ?by mistake?.

Vowing to demand answers about the deaths of civilians in the town of Haditha last year, Nuri al-Maliki said: ?We are worried about the increase in ?mistakes?.

?I am not saying that they are intentional. But it is worrying for us,? he told Reuters in an interview.

Maliki also pledged to disband militias, and said he was ready to overrule squabbling parties in his coalition by naming his own choices as ministers of defence and the interior.

Speaking in his office in Baghdad, the straight-talking Islamist who spent years waging war on Saddam Hussein from exile in Syria said he would fly to Iraq?s second city Basra to end faction fighting among fellow Shi?ites.

?There?s no way we can leave Basra, the gateway to Iraq, our imports and exports, at the mercy of criminal, terrorist gangs. We will use force against these gangs,? said Maliki.

He vowed to investigate killings of Iraqi civilians in the western town of Haditha last November after local witnesses said they were shot by Marines.

U.S. defence officials have said charges including murder may be brought against Marines following a U.S. investigation into the 24 civilian deaths in Haditha, a stronghold of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

?There is a limit to the acceptable excuses. Yes a mistake may happen but there is an acceptable limit to mistakes,? Maliki said. ?We will ask for answers not only about Haditha but about any operation ... in which killing happened by mistake and we will hold those who did it responsible.?

Many Iraqis believe unjustified killings by U.S. troops are common, though few have been confirmed by investigations.

Meanwhile the White House pledged that the public would be told everything learned during a probe into reports that U.S. Marines may have killed two dozen Iraqi civilians in the Iraqi city of Haditha last November.

The Nov. 19 deaths have led to comparisons from U.S. commentators of the March 16, 1968, killing of unarmed civilians by U.S. troops in the Vietnamese village of My Lai.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the Defense Department was investigating the incident and that he had been assured that ?when this comes out, all the details will be made available to the public, so we?ll have a picture of what happened.? Baghdad, Washington, Wednesday, Reuters



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