The reconstruction of the war-torn Iraq needs at least five years or even more time, two influential US senators said Tuesday.
"Despite our satisfaction over the outcome of the combat phase of the (Iraq) war, we must recognize that we are probably closer to the beginning than to the end of our endeavors in Iraq," US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar said at a hearing.
"I've stated that it may take up to five years of efforts by coalition countries in Iraq to fully achieve our goals of stability, reconstruction, disarmament and democracy," the Republican senator said.
Joseph Biden, a Democrat and Lugar's predecessor, echoed the comments. "This (rebuilding Iraq) is going to require some significant time and significant resources. And I agree with the chairman," he said.
"We've both been talking about the notion that this can happen in months as being preposterous, and it's going to be somewhere in the range of five, or maybe more, years," Biden added.
"Iraq is not a prize," he said. "It's a complex society in a very tough neighborhood with incredibly, incredibly difficult problems to undertake and resolve."
Both senators also agreed on the need for the Bush administration to embark on efforts to mend fences with allied countries who have been opposed the US-led war with Iraq.
"Retaliating against long standing allies who were not with us on the war -- no matter how right they were or how wrong they were-- is beneath a great nation such as ours, and profoundly against our own interests," Biden said.
Lugar admitted that US relations with some of its allies "have suffered deep wounds" because of differences over the US approach to Iraq.
But he said Washington now must think about how to repair these relationships and how to "ensure that military and economic burdens related to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war on terror do not fall overwhelmingly on the United States."