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Blair urged to dump policy on Iraq

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON, APRIL 27. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is facing fresh pressure to rethink his Iraq policy following an unprecedented collective protest by more than 50 former senior diplomats who accused him of following a `doomed' strategy and called for a "fundamental re-assessment'' to avoid further bloodshed.

In a joint letter to Mr. Blair, they attacked the American tactics in dealing with the growing Iraqi resistance and warned that these would exacerbate the tensions.

"Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Fallujah, all these have built up rather than isolated the opposition,'' they said and pointedly questioned claims that those putting up the resistance were terrorists.

"To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful,'' they said.

The signatories, among whom are a number of former ambassadors to Arab countries including Iraq, urged Mr. Blair as a "loyal ally'', to exert influence on America to reassess its tactics as a "matter of the highest urgency''.

"If that is unacceptable or unwelcome, there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure,'' they said, suggesting that Britain must distance itself from the U.S. approach in Iraq.

This is said to be the first time that a Prime Minister in recent memory has faced such a backlash from some of the country's top former diplomats.

Alan Munro, the former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a signatory to the letter, was reported as saying that their views were shared by many serving diplomats.

Oliver Miles, a former ambassador to Libya, who reportedly drafted the protest, said: "It is an indication of our serious concern that what is probably the biggest such collective group has gone straight to the Government in this way.''

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