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U.S. Wants to Bar Saddam Supporters From New Government

U.S. Wants to Bar Saddam Supporters From New Government

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Coalition officials are trying to sort out which Iraqis will be excluded from a new administration because of their ties to Saddam Hussein's regime, the U.S. administrator for Iraq said Wednesday.

Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner spoke after visiting the charred, ransacked Foreign Ministry building, which he vowed would soon be functioning again.

Membership in Saddam's Baath Party was often required for top officials, and finding educated, capable Iraqis who were not members of the party has been difficult.

"Like most other totalitarian regimes, most of the people that worked in running the country were part of the party," Garner said. "Some were good, some were bad. You bring everybody back and you can sort out who was good and who was bad. It takes time."

Maj. Gen. Tim Cross, British head of the international section of the civil administration, said some members of the former regime have already been blocked from participating in a new government.

At the Ministry of Planning, "some of the senior leadership ... are being asked to go home and take extended leave," Cross said. "We've asked some people not to return to the Ministry of Interior."

That view was not necessarily held by some of Iraq's former civil servants.

"I believe that all of the employees of this ministry are ready to return to work again," said Mohammed Amin Ahmed, the former director general of the Foreign Ministry who was appointed now to run it. "As we all know, the old regime is gone."

Garner met with a dozen Foreign Ministry officials. "We talked about starting up the Foreign Ministry again," he said. "It represents the sovereignty of the nation."

Further north in Tikrit, the tense city that is Saddam's hometown, U.S. forces appointed a governor and deputy governor of the Salah ad-Din province, where the city is located.

Brig. Gen Hosin Jasem Mohamed al-Jbouri, a Tikrit native, was an Iraqi army officer during the 1991 Gulf War and fought against Americans. He fell out of favor with Saddam afterward because he became too popular and was imprisoned briefly in 1993 before becoming head of the country's customs operation.

Al-Jbouri, whose name was put forward for the post by Yarab al-Hashimi, the Tikrit chief of the U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces, said he didn't worry about being perceived as an American lackey by pro-Saddam forces in Tikrit.

"They are not a majority. They are a minority," he said. "And if we do a good job for the people, they will learn the good side of the Americans. When you see things are going well, you get their trust."

Nahad Gaze Ahmed al-Nasere, a former Iraqi air force colonel, was appointed deputy governor of the province. Both men signed statements renouncing any loyalty to the Baath Party and rejecting any claims it might have on power.

Al-Jbouri said he wants to get police back to work and make people feel safe by restoring such basic community services as schools and hospitals.

Maj. Mike Silverman, operations officer for the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade, responsible for Tikrit, said he fought briefly in the 1991 Gulf War against the Iraqi unit commanded by al-Jbouri.

"I think this will work out fine," Silverman said. "Soldiers are patriots. He fought for his country and I fought for my country. There's no blood feud here."

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

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