“When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war; this is much worse,” Mr. Annan said in an interview with the BBC.
Below is an article published on the New York Times Website:
BAGHDAD, Dec. 3 — Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, said Sunday that Iraq had descended into a civil war that was even deadlier and more anarchic than the 15-year sectarian bloodshed that tore apart Lebanon. “When we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war; this is much worse,” Mr. Annan said in an interview with the BBC.
In making his remarks, Mr. Annan joined a growing number of foreign and Iraqi leaders, policy makers and news organizations who say that Iraq is in the grip of civil war. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said last Wednesday at a conference in the United Arab Emirates that Iraq is in a civil war. A former Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, said the same last March.
The Bush administration has not characterized the conflict as a civil war.
The debate over the term raged last week in the United States, after NBC and other major news organizations said they were ready to apply it to Iraq. Scholars say that the widening sectarian conflict meets the common scholarly definition of a civil war and that when measured by deaths per year, Iraq is among the top civil wars of the last half-century. The civilian death toll is believed to be at least 50,000.
Last week, Mr. Annan suggested holding an international conference on Iraq that would include all of the country’s major political groups and representatives from around the region.
In Baghdad on Sunday, President Jalal Talabani rejected a call by Mr. Annan for an international conference to reach a solution to the conflict, saying the Iraqis were working to stanch the bloodshed through their own political process.
“We have an ongoing political process and a council of representatives that is the best in the region,” Mr. Talabani said in a statement, using the formal name of the Iraqi Parliament. “We became an independent sovereign state and we decide the issues of the country.”
In addition to Mr. Annan, a growing number of American advisers have suggested that the United States and Iraq should hold a conference that would bring together all the countries in the region to try to re-establish stability in Iraq. Such a meeting might include Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, all accused by various American and Iraqi leaders of fomenting violence here.
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III is expected to recommend in a report this week that the United States open up diplomatic channels with Iran and Syria to discuss the subject. That suggestion has already been received coolly by the White House, where some senior officials say opening talks with those two countries would in itself be a major concession to their authoritarian, anti-American governments.
On Saturday, a powerful Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, also rejected Mr. Annan’s call for a conference. In the past, Mr. Hakim has chafed at the idea that countries in the region dominated by Sunni Arabs could get more involved in Iraq. Mr. Hakim comes from a prominent religious family and has close ties to Iran, which is largely Shiite.
Mr. Hakim is scheduled to meet with President Bush in Washington on Monday to discuss the rapid deterioration of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government.
Mr. Talabani’s office released his statement after he met with Representative Christopher Shays, the Connecticut Republican who is advocating a timetable for withdrawing American troops. Mr. Shays is also pushing to convene a conference of Iraq’s neighbors.
In his statement, Mr. Talabani also said that it was not the government’s top priority to disband militias, and that it was more important to tamp down on the Sunni Arab-led insurgency. The United States has pressed the government to disband militias, including two major Shiite militia groups.
The American military said Sunday that American forces killed two women, one child and six insurgents on Saturday in assaults on two buildings in the town of Garma, in the hostile Anbar Province. The women and child were killed, along with five insurgents, in an airstrike on one house, the military said.
The American military announced eight deaths of service members on Sunday. Two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Anbar on Saturday, and three Marines died the same day in Anbar from combat wounds. Another soldier was killed Saturday by a roadside bomb near Taji. A soldier died in combat in Baghdad on Sunday. The Air Force said Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, a pilot listed as missing after his F-16 crashed last Monday in Anbar, had been killed in the incident.
In Baghdad, the police found at least 50 bodies across the city. The body of Hideab Majhool Hasnawi, the head of a famous soccer club, was identified in the morgue. A leader of the Mandean religion, Talib Salman Areebie, was kidnapped from his home in the Ur neighborhood and killed soon afterward, said a spokesman for the Mandeans.
A car bomb killed 3 civilians and injured 10 in northern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. In the city of Mosul, a suicide car bomber rammed into a police station, killing two policemen and wounding four others.
West of Basra, British soldiers fought Shiite militiamen as the British tried searching buildings in the town of Hayaniya, a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr. A police official said that at least one Shiite fighter was killed.