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U.S. Looks to Rebuild Iraq

U.S. Looks to Rebuild Iraq

Posted - Apr. 21, 2003 at 10:07 p.m.



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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The American charged with rebuilding a ravaged country came to Baghdad Monday. But the work of rooting out the old Iraq went on.

Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi, known as Saddam Hussein's "Shiite Thug" for his role in Iraq's bloody suppression of the Shiite Muslim uprising of 1991, was arrested Monday, the U.S. Central Command said.

Bush administration officials have identified al-Zubaydi as one of nine Iraqis -- including Saddam himself -- sought for trial on charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

He was No. 18 on a list of the 55 most-wanted figures from the Saddam's regime. Iraqi opposition groups have accused him of the 1999 assassination of top Shiite cleric.

"This is very significant -- he is one of the most hated men in the former regime," said Haider Ahmad, a London-based spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, one of the numerous parties that, in exile, had opposed Saddam's government.

Central Command gave no further details on the arrest.

Also, military officials confirmed that U-S weapons experts in Iraq have found ingredients and equipment that can be used to make chemical weapons.

But they're not saying exactly what was buried south of Baghdad and uncovered several days ago. And they're not naming the Iraqi scientist who led them to the site. He claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program.

Officials caution the findings are not proof of chemical weapons at the site.

A senior defense official says the Pentagon is "highly skeptical" of the scientist's allegations that that Iraq recently began cooperating with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network.

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: A retired American general had taken charge of a country, recalling the days of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Japan after World War II and MacArthur's father 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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