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US Head of Iraqi Reconstruction Arrives in Baghdad - 2003-04-21

The retired U.S. general responsible for Iraq's post-war reconstruction has arrived in Baghdad. The general's first priority is to help restore essential services throughout the country as quickly as possible.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner arrived at Baghdad airport Monday morning from Kuwait. He came with an initial staff of about 20 civil administrators including his British deputy, Tim Cross.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army's 5th Corps, Major William Thurmond, said General Garner and his assistants are planning to visit various facilities in the capital and elsewhere in Iraq in the next several days. "He is visiting a hospital, some local police here in Baghdad. He is also visiting a power and water facility in Baghdad. Then, he is going to some of the cities outside of Baghdad. I can't go into details for security reasons," he said. "Then, he will be coming back to Baghdad sometime in the next few days."

The trip is General Garner's first visit to Baghdad since American-led forces toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein more than two weeks ago.

The general was recently appointed by President Bush to supervise the U.S.-military-led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. The new agency has a mandate from Washington to shape a post-Saddam administration for Iraq, to revitalize the economy, and to prepare the way for an eventual government made up of Iraqis.

General Garner acknowledges that he faces numerous obstacles, including grinding poverty, ethnic and religious rivalries, and opposition to a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq.

The general says he does not know how long it will take to rebuild Iraq in a way that will be acceptable to the Iraqi people. But he says the United States and its coalition allies will not leave the country until the Iraqis can hold democratic elections and choose a new leader.

General Garner and his staff of more than 400 military officers and civilians have been preparing for their mission for more than a month in nearby Kuwait. They are expected to move their headquarters to Baghdad in the coming week.

The general's staff includes former U.S. State Department and Commerce Department officials and retired American military generals. There are also more than 20 judges and lawyers who have been recruited to help restore Iraq's judicial system.