BAGHDAD, Iraq – The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said Thursday there was no need for more U.S. troops in the country and blamed continuing violence on insufficient intelligence and the lack of cooperation from the Iraqi people.
Meanwhile, south of Baghdad (search) a British soldier was killed and a second injured when their convoy was trapped between two crowds who fired with small arms and rocket propelled grenades in southern Iraq, the British military said Thursday.
Regarding the continuing violence, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search) said the country needs an Iraqi civil defense force and more Iraqi police to "establish linkages to the Iraqi people ... to get the information that we need."
"Putting more soldiers on the ground is not going to solve the problem if I don't have the intelligence to act on," Sanchez said at a news conference.
Sanchez said casualty figures since the end of major fighting in Iraq — declared by President Bush on May 1 — were "about what we would expect to get in this kind of conflict." Since May 1, 143 U.S. soldiers have died — five more than during the war itself.
Sanchez acknowledged the U.S. forces had foreign fighters in custody, but refused to give any details about where they had come from or how they were captured.
Earlier this summer, Sanchez announced plans to train about 7,000 Iraqis to serve in a civil defense force to guard important facilities in the country and to patrol with U.S. soldiers. He said 185 civil defense trainees were ready to graduate and begin serving.
Sanchez said he also would welcome an international forces to bring about peace and help rebuild Iraq.
France's foreign minister on Thursday called for the deployment of a U.N.-run international force in Iraq, arguing that merely increasing troops under U.S. and British control would not be enough.
Dominique de Villepin (search), a strident opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also called for the establishment of a provisional government in Baghdad backed up by the United Nations.
"It does not suffice to deploy more troops, more technical and financial means," de Villepin told a convention of French ambassadors gathered in Paris. "We need a real change in approach."
The United States so far has resisted calls for a commanding U.N. role in Iraq, arguing instead for a Security Council resolution urging nations to send forces to Iraq, but without giving up American command.
In the fatal attack on the British soldier, the troops were returning from a raid when about 30 people blocked their route in the town of Ali as-Sharqi on Wednesday night, British Lt. Cmdr. Richard Walters said.
The soldiers moved around that crowd, only to be stopped by a second group of people blocking the road near Fort Jennings, he said.
The soldiers got down from their vehicles and fired two warning shots to disperse the crowds when the Iraqis attacked, killing one soldier and wounding the second in the hand, he said.
The British arrested 10 people and withdrew to their base at al-Amarah, 75 miles north of Basra with protection from helicopters and additional rapid reaction troops called to the scene, he said.
The latest death brings the British toll in the war to 49, with 11 of them killed since May 1.
A total 281 American soldiers have been killed since the war began on March 20. The latest were two U.S. soldiers who died Wednesday in separate attacks and a third soldier who died of a non-hostile gunshot wound.
U.S. lawmakers visiting Baghdad on Wednesday called for more Iraqi forces to be trained to relieve American troops and for an increase in intelligence gathering to stem guerrilla attacks.
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who led the 11-member House delegation on a five-day visit, said "extremists from other countries coming across the border" also pose a threat.
The violence in Iraq has prompted a number of international organizations to reassess security, with many pulling out expatriate staff. The relief agency Oxfam was the fourth major international organization known to have pulled some or all of its foreign staff out of Iraq.
A day after the Aug. 19 suicide truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters, which killed at least 23 people, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund said they were temporarily withdrawing some foreign staff. Many U.N. foreign workers also have left the country.
Dozens of non-governmental aid and support groups are working in Iraq. "Most of them are reducing their staff as much as possible," Hanno Schaefer, spokesman for Caritas, the Catholic Church relief agency.
Oxfam began withdrawing its 15 international staff members on Monday and completed the move within 48 hours, Simon Springett, Oxfam's program manager for Iraq, told the Associated Press from Amman, Jordan. The Oxford, England-based aid group had been working on water and sanitation projects with UNICEF in Iraq.
"The risk level was becoming unacceptable for us, making it impossible for our programs to operate," Springett said.
He said the bombing at the U.N. headquarters was only one of many factors that led Oxfam to withdraw its staff.
"We felt international organizations were becoming increasingly targeted," he said. Fifty Iraqi nationals working for Oxfam were to remain in the country.
The violence has hit Iraqis as well, with frequent carjackings and robberies. Gunfire and explosions are commonplace in Baghdad.