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US, Britain Expect Rapid Reconstruction of Iraq - 2003-04-24

The U.S. and British officials in charge of reconstructing Iraq expect government ministries to reopen next week. The officials say oil has started to flow in the south, and will soon flow in the north, to help fire up electricity plants.

Retired U.S. Army General Jay Garner says Iraq's reconstruction should go faster than many think. "I do not have a calendar for the length of time," he said. "We'll do it as fast as we can. But, I think, it will go faster than people think."

Mr. Garner says government ministries should be open next week, although he did not give a date, and the United States, he says, will pay the workers' salaries. "It's very important that the people start back to work, especially the people in public service, and we told them that, as soon as they can identify them to us, we'll begin paying salaries," said Jay Garner.

Some Iraqis have raised concerns about a U.S. administration running Iraq. Mr. Garner told a news conference Thursday the interim administration will have, "an Iraqi face." But he says civil servants returning to work will be carefully screened. "If we identify anyone who is a crony of Saddam Hussein, or anyone who was involved in violation of human rights, then they're disqualified," he said.

The coalition team dealing with reconstruction has divided the country into three administrative zones: north, south and central, and is considering a fourth.

A top priority for most Iraqis is the restoration of electricity. Major General Carl Strock says 175,000 barrels of oil are being pumped a day in the south. He says the oil is being used to fuel the power stations there. "This is strictly for domestic use, for Iraqi internal needs. It is not for export," he said.

He expects oil and natural gas to start flowing again in the north in the coming days. The natural gas is critical, he says, for firing up the power stations that supply electricity to the capital.