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Rumsfeld tells war critics to ‘back off‘

PAULINE JELINEK / AP | October 26 2006

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that critics should "just back off" on demands for deadlines in Iraq and that it is difficult to predict when Iraqis will resume control of their country.

At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld said benchmarks for security, political and economic progress that U.S. and Iraqi officials have been discussing are valuable because "you are in effect establishing priorities."

"You‘re looking for some sort of a guillotine to come falling down if some date isn‘t met. That is not what this is about," Rumsfeld told reporters.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad announced in Baghdad on Tuesday that Iraqi leaders had agreed that by the end of the year, they will have a plan that roughly lays out the times by which they want certain things accomplished.

His announcement came two weeks before elections for control of Congress in which President Bush ‘s stewardship of the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq has become a top issue.

Later Wednesday, Bush said al-Maliki was correct in saying mandates could not be imposed on Iraq. He added, "We‘ll push him, but we‘re not going to push him to the point where he can‘t achieve the objective."

"You ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it‘s complicated, it‘s difficult," Rumsfeld said regarding deadlines. "Honorable people are working on these things together. There isn‘t any daylight between them."

"We intend to increase their budgets" as well as their capabilities, Rumsfeld said, and officials will help make the improvements more quickly. He did not cite any figures, however. His press secretary, Eric Ruff, said a review of their needs is under way.

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