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U.S. GENERAL: IRAQ MAY NEED U.N. FORCES

Associated Press

BAGHDAD - The top American military commander in Iraq said Tuesday that U.N. peacekeeping forces may need to replace departing U.S. troops in the nation's oil-rich north if a feud between Arabs and minority Kurds continues through 2011.

A U.N. force might offer both the Iraqi leadership and President Barack Obama a politically palatable alternative to an ongoing U.S. presence to prevent ethnic tensions from descending into war. Although occasional bombings by Sunni extremists on Shiite targets grab the headlines, many observers believe the Kurdish-Arab dispute is the most powerful fault line in Iraq today.

Gen. Ray Odierno brought up the possibility of a U.N. force during an interview with the Associated Press. He observed that there is no immediate end in sight to the yearslong dispute between Arabs and Kurds, who have managed an uneasy political dance under U.S. supervision since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"That's something that has to be worked out," he said, discussing potential options to defuse hostilities if a pilot program to bring Kurdish troops into the Arab-dominated Iraqi army fails. "If we have not integrated, we might have to think of some other mechanism. I don't know what that is yet. Is it a Chapter 6 U.N. force? I don't know."

Chapter 6 of the United Nations charter refers to peacekeeping duties such as investigating and mediating disputes.

At issue is a swath of land through three northern Iraqi provinces that Kurdish leaders want included in their semiautonomous region, known as Kurdistan. The United Nations has so far been unable to broker a compromise to the land fight, a dispute that has compounded years of distrust between Arabs and Kurds, a separate ethnic group making up about 20 percent of Iraq's population.

A security agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments requires all American forces to leave the country by the end of 2011. There are currently about 77,500 U.S. troops here. It's widely believed that Iraq's leaders may ask the United States to leave at least some troops behind to give the nation's uneven army and police forces more time to train.

Odierno said that decision will be up to the incoming Iraqi government, whose leadership is still contested after no clear winner emerged from the March parliamentary elections. But he left open the possibility that some U.S. troops might stay.

Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reopening of a probe into the death of a Spanish journalist who was hit by U.S. tank fire in Iraq in 2003. It accepted an appeal by the family of cameraman Jose Couso and ordered the lower National Court to reopen the investigation. Couso was one of two journalists killed when the soldiers - members of a tank crew - responded to what they said was hostile fire from the Baghdad hotel that housed Western journalists during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. U.S. officials said investigations have shown the soldiers, Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp, acted correctly.

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Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reopening of a probe into the death of a Spanish journalist who was hit by U.S. tank fire in Iraq in 2003. It accepted an appeal by the family of cameraman Jose Couso and ordered the lower National Court to reopen the investigation. Couso was one of two journalists killed when the soldiers - members of a tank crew - responded to what they said was hostile fire from the Baghdad hotel that housed Western journalists during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. U.S. officials said investigations have shown the soldiers, Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp, acted correctly.

.fast facts

Inquiry reopened

Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reopening of a probe into the death of a Spanish journalist who was hit by U.S. tank fire in Iraq in 2003. It accepted an appeal by the family of cameraman Jose Couso and ordered the lower National Court to reopen the investigation. Couso was one of two journalists killed when the soldiers - members of a tank crew - responded to what they said was hostile fire from the Baghdad hotel that housed Western journalists during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. U.S. officials said investigations have shown that the soldiers - Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp - acted correctly.

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