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U.S. Administrator Arrives in Baghdad

U.S. Administrator Arrives in Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Glimmers of a new Iraq were evident Monday, as the American charged with rebuilding a ravaged country came to Baghdad, and Muslim multitudes converged on holy cities for a ritual long suppressed by Saddam Hussein's regime.

But the work of rooting out the old Iraq went on. Military officials announced the arrest of a key figure in the brutal suppression of the Shiite Muslim uprising of 1991. And they revealed that American experts had discovered ingredients and equipment that could be used to make a chemical weapon.

U.S. Administrator Arrives in Baghdad

Efforts to bring electricity to Baghdad progressed. Iraqi engineers started a turbine at the city's biggest power plant, and a few lights flickered in the capital for the first time since April 3. It was expected that Baghdad would have 90 percent of its prewar power in a day or two.

This, said retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, was his top priority as Iraq's postwar administrator -- to restore power and water "as soon as we can."

Garner's arrival in Baghdad was itself a historic moment. For now, a retired American general has taken charge of an Arab country, as Douglas MacArthur did in Japan after World War II and MacArthur's father did in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.

Garner, though, said he has no intention of leading Iraq. "The new ruler of Iraq is going to be an Iraqi. I don't rule anything," he said.

He was careful to frame his mission in humanitarian terms: "What better day in your life can you have," he said, "than to be able to help somebody else, to help other people, and that is what we intend to do."

After his arrival, he visited Baghdad's 1,000-bed Yarmuk hospital, which was overwhelmed with Iraqi casualties in the final days of the war and then stripped by looters.

"We will help you, but it is going to take time," he told doctors.

His Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid is to coordinate emergency aid to the 24 million Iraqis and oversee the rebuilding of the nation's infrastructure and establishment of an interim Iraqi government.

That last, crucial goal was challenged Monday by Iran, which said it would not recognize any government installed by America.

"There are Iraqi opposition groups who will not agree to an authority led by America and they want to install a temporary Iraqi government. They are capable of doing so under United Nations auspices," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite channel.

U.S. Administrator Arrives in Baghdad

Garner brought about 20 aides from a staff that is expected to grow to more than 450 in the next week. He emphasized that his aim is to turn over Iraq to the Iraqis, though he refused to say when. "We will leave fairly rapidly," he said.

That isn't soon enough for some Iraqis.

It is "a complete humiliation," said Naema Hamed, a nurse at the hospital. "They said they came as liberators, what liberation? This is an occupation, it is not a liberation."

Some were more equivocal. "The Americans and British liberated Iraq, and we're grateful for that," said Fadhil al-Amiri, 61, leader of a small Shiite clan. "If this American general stays for six months or a year, fine -- but not forever."

Clearly, Garner's stay will not be placid. On Monday, thousands of Shiite Muslims marched in the heart of the city in angry protest of the reported arrest of a senior cleric by the U.S. military.

They massed outside the Palestine Hotel, which has housed some U.S. military offices, to demand the release of Sheik Mohammed al-Fartusi, along with other Shiite clerics. The U.S. Central Command had no comment on the reported arrest.

Thousands of other Shiites marched, but in piety, not protest. Their destinations were Najaf -- burial shrine of Imam Ali, son-in-law of Islam's Prophet Muhammad and regarded by Shiites as his successor -- and Karbala, where Hussein, Muhammad's grandson, was martyred in the 7th century.

Up to 2 million Shiites were expected to take part in the pilgrimage, which culminates Thursday. Through the years of Saddam's rule, they were forbidden to march.

This year, they marched openly under black banners of mourning. The roads were choked with pilgrims, some of them limping from long journeys. Hundreds of thousands surrounded shrines at Karbala, chanting and beating their chests.

Two men crawled on their stomachs into one shrine; months back, they had vowed to crawl into Karbala if the Americans ousted Saddam.

"We were prohibited from visiting these shrines for a long time by the Baath Party and their agents," Abed Ali Ghilan told APTN in Karbala. "This year we thank God for ridding us of the dictator Saddam Hussein and for letting us visit these shrines."

U.S. Administrator Arrives in Baghdad

Volunteers provided food and water along the route; American forces stayed clear, and fears of violence appeared baseless.

Meanwhile, U.S.-led forces still faced sporadic fighting; one Marine was reported injured in fighting in the north. And the Americans pressed forward with their efforts to capture the remnants of Saddam's regime.

Authorities provided no details about the arrest of Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi, a former member of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and central Euphrates regional commander, who was No. 18 on a list of the 55 most-wanted figures from Saddam's regime.

But officials of the opposition Iraqi National Congress said their forces had captured al-Zubaydi -- queen of spades on the deck of playing cards distributed to U.S. forces -- about 55 miles south of Baghdad.

Ahmad Chalabi, who heads the congress, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that his group believes Saddam and his sons are alive and still in Iraq, and the group is tracking their movements.

A battalion from the Army's 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, reached the Hadithah Dam northwest of Baghdad to provide security along the Syrian border -- to interdict Iraqis trying to escape and Arab militants trying to slip in.

There is still no official confirmation that American or British forces had discovered the chemical or biological weapons that were cited by President Bush as the reason for going to war.

But military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that an Iraqi scientist had led them to some materials that could have been used to build weapons of mass destruction.

The development was first reported by The New York Times.

The Iraqi scientist, who was not named for fear he might be harmed, said Iraq destroyed and buried chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment days before the war's start. He also claimed Iraq secretly sent stockpiles of deadly agents and weapons technology to Syria in the mid-1990s, and more recently cooperated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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