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Uganda’s president criticizes Bush administration’s handling of war in Iraq

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By HENRY WASSWA, Associated Press Writer

KAMPALA, Uganda, Oct 13, 2004 (AP) — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni criticized the U.S. handling of the war in Iraq and said U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration mishandled the conflict and pursued interests that were not disclosed to coalition partners before the hostilities, state media and a senior official said Wednesday.

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Yoweri Museveni

Museveni — one of the four African members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq — said during a visit this week to a military college that the bloody Iraqi insurgency is a result of the U.S. "arrogance" and mishandling of relations between its troops and Iraqi civilians, the state-owned New Vision newspaper reported Wednesday.

Despite concern over the handling of Iraq, Uganda has no plans to pull out of the coalition, Information Minister James Nsaba Buturo told The Associated Press Wednesday.

"The president said that the Americans have not invested much in building up civilian confidence and support in Iraq," Buturo said. "He said there can be no success if there is no civilian support."

The Ugandan leader unleashed the criticism Tuesday while opening the military’s Senior Command and Staff College at Jinja, a town 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of the Ugandan capital, Kampala. They were reported in the New Vision newspaper and Buturo later confirmed they were accurate.

The White House lists Uganda as a member of the coalition backing U.S. intervention in Iraq. Museveni’s Cabinet voted on March 24, 2003 to support the United States and provide any assistance required, if called upon. The African nation has no troops or civilians in Iraq.

Uganda backed the coalition because the Bush administration claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was a friend of (Sudanese President) Omar el-Bashir "who was my enemy," Museveni was quoted as saying by the New Vision.

Museveni said he joined the coalition against the advice of his Cabinet because he believed the former Iraqi leader had the potential to support Uganda’s enemies, Buturo said.

Museveni criticized efforts to restore peace in Iraq, saying the U.S. was wrong to demobilize one million Iraq soldiers and appoint a U.S. administrator, the New Vision said.

"When I went to Washington recently, I told them that as a member of the coalition, we never discussed some of the things they were doing in Iraq," the paper quoted Museveni as saying.

"The president said that he supported the U.S. against Saddam (Hussein) but that he did not know of other details which were being advanced in other quarters including that the war was about oil interests," Buturo said. "He said he supported them without knowing their other reasons of going to war."

The other African countries that the White House says are members of the coalition are Eritrea, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

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