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Iraq is slipping into a state of low-level civil war, Britain's former ambassador to the country said Sunday.
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was London's senior representative in Baghdad until 2004, said the conflict is increasingly pitting the country's rival ethnic and religious groups against each other. The sectarian fighting, he added, bore a resemblance to ethnic cleansing in some parts of the country.
"One could almost call it a low-level civil war already," Greenstock told British television channel ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby program.
He said that though he didn't believe a "classic civil war" would follow, he feared that local communities will look increasingly to militias for protection, ignoring central authorities in the process.
"The unity of the country, the forward progress of the country would be lost," Greenstock said.
The envoy, who served as British ambassador to the United Nations in the run-up to the 2003 war before being sent to Iraq, said "quiet assassinations" are almost commonplace in areas of the country.
"There are elements of ethnic cleansing, getting a minority community out of an area so that the majority community can take over, in certain parts of Iraq. Certainly not in all of Iraq, but in some of the main cities, this is happening," he told the television program.
Greenstock, who in December predicted the insurgency in Iraq could last another five years, said he believed prospects for coalition troops to make a speedy withdrawal remained slim.