August 12, 2005

Iraq war boosted Islamic extremist threat- Carter

KINGS BAY, Georgia (Reuters) - The 2003 invasion of Iraq
was a mistake that has boosted the ranks and morale of
extremist Islamic groups and made them a greater threat to U.S.
interests, former President Jimmy Carter said on Friday.

"We have not lessened the strength of terrorists around the
world and have not lessened but have increased both the number
and the fervor and the organizational capabilities of
terrorists," Carter said in a news conference at this U.S.
naval base in southeastern Georgia.

Carter, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 and one
of the fiercest U.S. critics of the war in Iraq, added that he
was opposed to a sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops "because it
would lead to a "debacle" in the Middle Eastern nation.

Carter's comments came one day after President George W.
Bush rejected calls for a quick pullout. Bush, who is
vacationing at his ranch in Texas, said a premature withdrawal
would betray the Iraqis just as they are being trained to
defend themselves and eventually take over from U.S. soldiers.

More than 1,800 U.S. soldiers have been killed since a
U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in the spring of 2003, toppling
Saddam Hussein from power.

Carter was in Kings Bay, Georgia, to tour the U.S.S. Jimmy
Carter, a newly commissioned nuclear submarine. Carter, a
former Navy submarine officer, and his wife, Rosalynn, spent
Thursday night on the submerged vessel.