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Leaked memo confirms U.K.-U.S. rift over Iraq

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON, MAY 24. Persistent reports about a simmering rift between London and Washington over U.S. military tactics in Iraq have been confirmed by a leaked Foreign Office memo, sharply criticising America's "heavy-handed'' handling of the growing Iraqi resistance to the occupation forces and calling for a more "sensible and sensitive'' approach.

The memo, published by The Sunday Times, says the British Government should use its military presence in Iraq to `maximise' its influence over American "military decisions''..

"We need to redouble our efforts to ensure a sensible and sensitive U.S. approach to military operations. The message seems to be accepted at the highest levels but not always implemented lower down the command chain,'' it says.

In a scathing attack on American approach, the memo points out that "heavy-handed U.S. military tactics in Falluja and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and Shia opposition to the coalition, and lost us much public support inside Iraq''.

It also raises concerns over allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by coalition troops and says the "scandal... .has sapped the moral authority of the coalition, inside Iraq and internationally.'' The disclosure, which came amid growing pressure on the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to "stand up'' to Washington and distance Britain from American policies in Iraq, contradicts the Government claims that there are no tensions between the British and U.S. authorities over the handling of the post-war chaos in Iraq.

In another development which is likely to embarrass Mr. Blair, the outspoken Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who was readmitted to the Labour Party only recently at the instance of Mr. Blair, called for the U.S. President, George W. Bush, to be prosecuted for "war crimes'' in Iraq.

He told an anti-war rally at Trafalgar Square in central London that he hoped that Mr. Bush would be "consigned to the dustbin of history'' in the presidential elections.

Amid cheers, he said that if Mr. Bush lost, he should be stripped of his diplomatic immunity and be "prosecuted for the war crimes he has overseen and unleashed''.

Mr. Livingstone, who once called Mr. Bush the "biggest threat'' to the world, is the Labour Party's candidate for next month's mayoral elections in which the Iraq war is likely to be a major issue.

He was banned from the party after he contested the last election in defiance of the leadership.

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