This is from a Bulgarian news agency.
Iraq bitter and divided for invasion anniversary
20 March 2007 | 04:57 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. Iraq on Tuesday marked the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion with signs of growing bitterness against American troops and a new act of recrimination against Saddam Hussein's regime.
In the four years since the launch of the "shock and awe" military campaign just before dawn on March 20, 2003, Iraq has descended into a sectarian hell that has left tens of thousands of civilians dead, AFP reports.
At 5:35 am on that day, Tomahawk missiles and precision-guided bombs rained down on Baghdad targets as Saddam vowed that this would be "Iraq's last battle against the tyrannous villains."
On April 9, the Iraqi strongman's statue in a central square was torn down with a rope around the neck, in a premonition of his own hanging last December 30 after his convictionn for crimes against humanity.
His vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, was to follow him to the gallows on on Tuesday's anniversary, a lawyer from Saddam's defence team said.
US President George W. Bush, facing growing anti-war protests, pleaded for patience on Monday with his unpopular Iraq strategy and Washington's revamped efforts to restore order.
"The Baghdad security plan is still in its early stages and success will take months, not days or weeks," the embattled president said.
"It could be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating."
Despite Bush's warnings, a new poll showed US public opinion on Iraq had soured further, with just 32 percent of Americans saying they favoured the war, compared to 72 percent on the eve of conflict four years ago.
And despite recent claims by the Bush administration that the month-old US troop surge in Baghdad was beginning to work, another poll by Western media organisations told a story of Iraqi pessimism.
Only 18 percent of Iraqis had confidence in US and coalition troops, while 78 percent opposed their presence, 69 percent said their presence made security worse and 51 percent said attacks on coalition forces were justified.
Protests have been staged across the United States and in several European cities and Japan, against the war that was originally based on a premise of eliminating weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
Commanders are now pouring 25,000 reinforcements into Baghdad to quell Sunni-Shiite fighting, the bloodiest element of the conflict and one which even the Pentagon admits amounts to civil war.
In western and northern Iraq, Al-Qaeda militants pursue their brutal insurgency against the US-backed government, while in the south and centre Shiite militias jostle for supremacy and control of oil resources.
The launch of the joint US-Iraqi security plan in Baghdad has driven some sectarian death squads from the streets, but car bombs still explode every day, scattering bodies and bloodied debris through crowded markets.
"There has been a steady decline in the Iraq situation since the invasion. Things have gone from bad to worse," said Joost Hiltermann, Middle East project director for the International Crisis Group, a respected think tank.
The raw figures do not tell the whole story of a complex crisis, but they make grim reading.
Since the conflict began, two million Iraqis have fled the country and 1.8 million have been displaced within its borders, according to figures compiled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Estimates of Iraqi civilian casualties in the past four years vary wildly, but the Iraq Body Count website's figure of 58,800 is among the more conservative. The Baghdad government said 1,440 people were killed in January alone.
At least 3,203 American, 132 British and 124 other coalition soldiers have also died since the invasion.
Iraqi officials point to a constitution, endorsed by referendum, and the creation of a national unity government by an elected parliament -- with 25 percent of its members women -- as signs of progress since the dictator's fall.
US commanders, with a wary eye on plummeting public and political support for the war back home, also point to reconstruction and economic development efforts as the great untold story of the war.
Nevertheless, the violence and the corruption that has dogged Iraq's post-invasion reconstruction have delayed much progress in terms of utilities such as electricity supplies.
And a series of US security operations has so far failed to fill the security vacuum caused by Washington's decision to disband Iraq's Saddam-era armed forces which opened the field to Al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed militia.