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Retiring GOP legislator calls war unjustified

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A top Republican congressman has broken from his party in the final days of his House career, saying he thinks the US military assault on Iraq was not justified and the situation there has deteriorated into "a dangerous, costly mess."

"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action," Representative Doug Bereuter wrote in a letter to his constituents.

"Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action."

Bereuter is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He is stepping down after 13 terms to become president of the Asia Foundation effective Sept. 1.

In 2002, Bereuter had spoken out in support of a House resolution authorizing the president to go to war.

The letter, sent to constituents who have contacted him about the war, was reported by the Lincoln Journal Star in yesterday's editions.

"From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force," Bereuter wrote. "Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world."

As a result, he said, "our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened."

Bereuter declined to answer questions yesterday about the letter. His spokesman Alan Feyerherm said the congressman "feels the letter speaks for itself."

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