Even Colin Powell is calling Iraq a ‘civil war’

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday Iraq had descended into civil war and urged world leaders to accept that "reality".

Powell’s remarks came ahead of a meeting between Bush and Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki in the Jordanian capital to discuss the security developments in Iraq.

"I would call it a civil war," Powell told a business forum in the United Arab Emirates. "I have been using it (civil war) because I like to face the reality," added Powell.

He said world leaders should acknowledge Iraq was in civil war.

Powell outlined the case against Iraq at the U.N. Security Council ahead of the war, which was based broadly on intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

President George W. Bush denied on Tuesday that sectarian violence had reached the scale of civil war. He said the latest wave of violence was part of a nine-month-old pattern of attacks by al Qaeda militants aimed at fomenting sectarian tension.

Bush and Maliki are scheduled to hold crisis talks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Bush is under growing pressure to find a new policy to curb sectarian strife in Iraq and to secure an exit for 140,000 U.S. troops.

Powell, speaking at a world leaders forum in Dubai, said Washington should adopt a more balanced policy toward Iraq’s political parties and sects to avoid marginalizing Sunni Muslims.

"We have to accept what all Iraqis accept, not to end up seeing a Shi’ite-dominated regime," he said.

However, Powell said troops had to continue their job in Iraq until their mission is done, but not to remain too long.

"The coming strategy has to be an Iraqi strategy, not American strategy," said Powell.

© Reuters 2006