THIS WEEK 6.17.07

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The U.S. should shift its focus in Iraq to support a limited central government and the autonomy of tribal regions Sen. Joseph Biden, D-De., told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos Sunday in a This Week interview. The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stressed, however, that the situation in Iraq is "first and foremost a civil war."

Biden agreed that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could view U.S. arming of Iraqi tribes as American support for Maliki's enemies. But Biden noted that "a strong, central, democratic government is not in the cards." "You're in the middle of this…to the extent that you arm one faction, you're going to be perceived as weighing in in the midst of what is a civil war," he said.

Biden, who described U.S. policy in Iraq as an "abject failure", said he doubts there is anything the U.S. military or Iraqi government could do to convince him to support the troop surge. "There continues to be denial about the progress that is not being made," he said.

The Senator said that he trusts Gen. David Petraeus to give a credible report on the state of conditions in Iraq come September. "I think he's a man of honor and I think, at the end of the day, he'll give us the straight scoop."

The 2008 presidential candidate also fielded questions on national security. Biden disagreed that the war on terror is just a bumper sticker, but said that terror is "being conflated with every other problem we have around the world."

In response to Sen. Hillary Clinton's, D-N.Y., comments that America is safer now than it was after 9/11, Biden characterized the current administration as "criminally negligent in how it has been dealt with the prospect of preventing another terrorist attack in the United States of America."

When asked if he or Sen. Clinton would make a better president, Biden responded "me, be a long shot."

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