- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Bush administration warned American diplomats and military personnel stationed in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone that they should expect more attacks like yesterday’s bombing on Iraq’s parliament as the plan to secure the capital pushes ahead.

Current and former officials at the U.S. Embassy said indications of attacks on the Green Zone have been apparent for months. Nevertheless, they said, yesterday’s incident had a psychological effect on those working there.

“We’ve said there are going to be good days and bad days concerning the security plan, but the commanders are carrying on their responsibilities and working to try to make the population more secure,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

“We are really just at the beginning of this and not at the end of it,” she told reporters after meeting with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, at the State Department.

“I don’t think anybody expected that there would not be counterefforts by the terrorists to undermine the security progress that we’re trying to make.”

Mr. McCain predicted more “spectacular” attacks in the Green Zone, which he said were intended to grab headlines in the United States and affect public opinion about the war.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was shaken but not hurt by an explosion in the Green Zone during a visit last month, said he was “deeply troubled” by the bombing. “Such violence,” he said, “can never be justified.”

Eight persons, including at least two members of parliament, were killed and more than 30 wounded in the attack in the Convention Center’s cafeteria just as members were sitting down for lunch.

Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops have been mounting a security crackdown in Baghdad since mid-February as part of President Bush’s strategy to prevent sectarian violence from sliding into a full-blown civil war.

Mr. Bush announced in January that an additional 21,000 American troops will be sent to Iraq to implement the plan, most of them in Baghdad and Anbar province. This week, the Pentagon said tours in Iraq will be extended from 12 to 15 months, except for the Marines.

The Green Zone, where the main Iraqi government buildings and the U.S. Embassy are located, is considered the safest part of the capital. Senior U.S. officials, including Miss Rice, have stayed there overnight.

The Associated Press reported that security officials had brought dogs inside the parliament building before the bombing, in a rare precaution that suggested concern about an attack.

The agency also quoted an Iraqi official as saying that pedestrians entering the Green Zone near the parliament building yesterday were being searched only by hand because a security scanner was not working.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh and Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, agreed at a meeting after the explosion to transfer responsibility for security at the parliament from a private company to the Interior Ministry, the AP said.

Brian Marshall, a former contract employee for the State Department who worked at the embassy last year, said in Washington that Americans in Baghdad are used to sporadic attacks, but yesterday’s bombing “gives them some pause.”

“We are not immune to the idea that something like this can happen,” said Mr. Marshall, who returned from Iraq in September. “We were getting periodic reports about threats to the Green Zone, so there were a lot of indications that an attack could take place.”

The State Department, meanwhile, said it had filled all but six of more than 180 positions in Iraq that need to be staffed this summer, both in Baghdad and in the so-called provincial reconstruction teams across the country. American diplomats in Iraq depend on the military for their protection.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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