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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Former Iraqi soldiers angry over rumors their pay would be cut off clashed Saturday with coalition troops in Baghdad and in the southern city of Basra in riots that left two Iraqis dead and dozens injured. Coalition officials said Saddam Hussein supporters fomented the violence.
Elsewhere, a U.S. soldier from the 4th Infantry Division was killed and another was wounded in an ambush early Saturday in Sadiyah, 60 miles north of Baghdad. The death brought to 88 the number of American soldiers killed by hostile fire since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1.
The trouble started in Baghdad when hundreds of ex-soldiers assembled Saturday morning at a U.S. base at the city's former downtown airport to collect their $40 a month stipend, which the coalition has been paying since Saddam's army was disbanded in May. The crowd began hurling stones at U.S. troops and Iraqi police, who fired shots to try to disperse them.
Some of the rioters moved to the nearby Mansour district, where they burned and looted four liquor stores and set fire to an Iraqi police car in the upscale neighborhood. Back at the U.S. base, an Iraqi police colonel finally persuaded most of the crowd to line up in an orderly fashion so they could receive their pay from the Americans.
One ex-soldier died from a gunshot wound to the head and 25 people were hurt during the Baghdad riot, according to Dr. Abbas Jafaar of the city's al-Yarmouk Hospital. U.S. officials said there were some injuries to coalition troops but refused to give further details.
Meanwhile, in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, coalition spokesman Maj. Niall Greenwood said one protester was shot and killed by British troops when ex-soldiers rioted after hearing rumors that Saturday was the last day they would receive stipend payments.
Coalition officials in Baghdad blamed loyalists for provoking the riots. The officials, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, noted that the riots broke out on the day that the first battalion of newly retrained Iraqi soldiers completed their nine-week basic course -- a first step toward establishing a new Iraqi army.
"The fact that the payments to the old conscripts have gone without incident so far and the successful graduation of the first battalion of the new Iraqi army seem to have been a bit too much for the old guard to accept," one official said.
"They started to stir the crowd, they spread rumors the last of the conscripts would not be paid, that the coalition forces did not have enough money. There were clearly groups of former Baathist officers with green banners in the crowd, inciting the others," the official said.
President Bush's administration plans to spend $2 billion to create a 40,000-member Iraqi military by the end of next year. On Saturday, the first batch of 700 recruits completed their basic training at a desert training camp in Kir Kush, 52 miles northeast of Baghdad. The new battalion will be assigned to help the U.S. 4th Infantry Division with security on the Iranian border.
"Our army will be devoted to the defense of our nation and all our citizens, regardless of ethnic background," Iyad Allawi, current president of the interim, U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, told the graduates. He denounced the old army as a force that "terrorized the people" and ensured Saddam's grip on power.
The United States hopes a reconstituted Iraqi army will represent an important step in returning power to the Iraqis following the ouster of Saddam's regime in April. The Bush administration is under strong pressure from France, Germany, Russia and others to speed up the process and is circulating a draft resolution in the U. N. Security Council to give the United Nations a greater role in Iraq's reconstruction.
However, the U.S. draft has failed to win support of key council members, who believe it does not go far enough in sharing control over Iraq. French President Jacques Chirac said Saturday he was disappointed by the new U.S. draft because it set no timetable and offered the United Nations only a marginal role.
"I do not hide from you that to us, it was somewhat of a disappointment," Chirac told reporters after an European Union summit in Rome.
After a protest from Chirac, Poland said Saturday it had been mistaken in reporting that its troops found new French-made anti-aircraft missiles in central Iraq.
Chirac swiftly denied selling Iraq weapons in violation of the U.N. weapons embargo against Saddam Hussein's regime. The claims, he said, "are as false today as they were yesterday."
An aide to the Polish prime minister said an initial report that the Roland missiles found by Polish troops days ago were produced in 2003 was incorrect. France said it stopped producing any type of Roland missile in 1993.
Prime Minister Leszek Miller met with Chirac twice to explain the mistake, said the aide, Tadeusz Iwinski. The two leaders were in Rome on Saturday for a European Union summit.
In other developments, Iraqi resistance fighters fired mortars Friday at an American base in Adduluiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, killing a 12-year-old Iraqi girl and injuring a woman and her infant, U.S. officials said Saturday.
An Iraqi was killed Friday in a raid just south of Kirkuk when he ignored orders to surrender and tried to flee the site of a weapons cache. Soldiers found 10 launchers for rocket-propelled grenades hidden in a haystack along with nine rockets, U.S. officials said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)