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Bush Aides: Allies Will Not Leave Iraq, Despite Attacks

By Steven R. Weisman

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

Bush administration officials said Monday that a recent wave of attacks on Spanish, Japanese and South Korean personnel in Iraq appeared intended to drive apart those seeking to secure the country. But the officials insisted that the campaign would not succeed in scaring anyone away from the job.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spoke to the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers to express condolences over the killing of two South Korean electrical workers and two Japanese diplomats over the weekend. Earlier, President Bush expressed condolences to Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar for the killing of seven Spanish intelligence agents on Saturday.

The killings prompted pledges from the leaders of Japan, South Korea and Spain to continue to expand their involvement in Iraq.

Asked if the violence had led to second thoughts in those countries about their involvement in Iraq, Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said, “I would say none whatsoever.”

He added that Powell had found only “a strong commitment, the same kind of commitment you’ve seen in public, to the broader goals, the bigger goals, and to the mission of bringing democracy and stability to Iraq.”

But all was not smooth on Monday after the latest attacks, and officials said the United States was not especially pleased with the latest move by the U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan SM ’72, in setting up a meeting in New York on Iraq with Security Council and Arab diplomats.

Powell has been stepping up the pressure on Annan to appoint a special personal representative in Iraq to replace Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed last summer. But U.N. diplomats say they doubt that Annan will move quickly, in part because of anxiety in the U.N. ranks.

The fear at the United Nations, said one diplomat there, is that the attacks on the latest targets -- coming on top of earlier attacks on Jordanian, Italian and U.N. offices -- appeared well organized, as if they were an extension of the defense of Iraq by Saddam Hussein.

“You may have toppled the statue, but you didn’t take out the wiring that he set up to organize these attacks,” said one diplomat, referring to Saddam.

Some diplomats cautioned that although leaders of the nations fighting alongside the United States in Iraq were standing firm, the same could not be guaranteed of the people in their countries, where the attacks have had a huge and devastating psychological impact.

In Japan, for instance, officials are expected to move quickly to send at least some forces to Iraq, fearing that doing so too close to the elections for the upper chamber of Parliament next summer could turn the issue into a divisive political matter. But it was not clear that speed would work in Japan, where a deliberative pace is the norm.

In Italy, Parliament must decide before the end of the year on a bill renewing financing for 2,700 troops stationed in Iraq. The financing measure is not expected to face opposition, but Italian officials are said to be nervous about rising Italian casualties.

Administration officials say the attacks lately seem as if they are intended to deliver a message to U.S. allies in Iraq to reconsider their involvement.