U.S. diplomat apologizes for Iraq policy critique

A senior U.S. diplomat apologized on Sunday for saying U.S. policy in Iraq has been marked by "arrogance" and "stupidity."

Alberto Fernandez, an Arabic-speaking diplomat in the U.S. State Department's bureau of Near Eastern affairs, issued a written apology about his interview with Al-Jazeera television.

"Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on Al-Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase 'there has been arrogance and stupidity' by the U.S. in Iraq," said Fernandez, director of public diplomacy in State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

"This represents neither my views nor those of the State Department," Fernandez said. "I apologize."

During the interview, Fernandez said the arrogance and stupidity of the U.S. policy in Iraq opened "great room for strong criticism."

'A disaster for the region'

Speaking in Arabic during the interview, Fernandez said the world was "witnessing failure in Iraq. ... That's not the failure of the United States alone, but it is a disaster for the region."

The interview was taped in Washington, D.C., on Friday. The Associated Press translated Fernandez's remarks into English.

U.S. officials, according to the Associated Press, have rejected his remarks and have been trying to play them down, but they resonated with some Democrats and Republicans who want the U.S. administration to develop new strategies to contain the escalating violence in Iraq.

The worsening situation in Iraq has become a concern for Republican candidates in the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Saturday that the U.S. goal is victory in Iraq, but "what is changing are the tactics we use to achieve that goal."

On Sunday, at least 44 Iraqis were killed in Iraq as insurgents attacked police recruits and shoppers on their way to pick up sweets and delicacies for feasts to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

And the U.S. military said four soldiers were killed on Sunday while a Marine was killed on Saturday in Iraq, bringing the death toll in October of U.S. troops to 83, the highest of any month so far this year.

With files from the Associated Press