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No civil war in Iraq because nobody has 'opted out': Rice

by Staff Writers
Washington, Aug 6, 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday rejected allegations that a civil war was raging in Iraq, arguing that the conflict in the US-occupied country had no separatist dimension and no Iraqi ethnic group had "opted out."

"Our civil war began quite dramatically when the South opted out of the United States of America," Rice explained in an interview with Time magazine. "Well, the Kurds haven't opted out of Iraq. The Shia haven't opted out of Iraq."

The secretary was referring to the US Civil War that was sparked in 1861 when 11 southern slave states formally seceded and formed the Confederate States of America.

The war between the North and South, which lasted four years, left more than 600,000 soldiers dead.

Debate about whether Iraq was already amid a full-blown civil war flared again on Thursday when General John Abizaid, head of the US Central Command, warned Congress that Iraq could slide into such a conflict if the sectarian violence there was not stopped.

Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd and his Republican colleague, Chuck Hagel said the military was being too diplomatic, that civil war in Iraq was already underway.

"This is a civil war," Dodd opined Sunday on CBS television's "Face the Nation" program. "I think the generals the other day were cautious in their language."

While acknowledging "problems" with violence, Rice insisted she did not think Iraq was going to slide into civil war.

She said the telltale sign of a civil war is a breakdown of "institutions of unity" and they, in her view, were still functioning in Iraq.

"People haven't opted out of a unified Iraq. People haven't opted out of the democratic institutions," the secretary of state pointed out. "There are some people outside the system who seem to be intent on trying to cause the breakdown of those institutions. But people haven't opted out of them."

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