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Process of Forming New Iraqi Government to Begin Next Week - 2003-04-24


The top U.S. official in Iraq says the process of forming a government will start by the end of next week. Retired general Jay Garner also told reporters in Baghdad that he believes Iran was involved in recent anti-U.S. demonstrations in Iraq.

Jay Garner told a news conference in Baghdad that he hopes to get some Iraqi ministries up and running by next week.

Mr. Garner, the retired U.S. general overseeing Iraq's reconstruction, says the ministries will be staffed and run by Iraqis with help from U.S. and coalition experts as needed.

Mr. Garner says the process of building a democratic Iraq will take time. "The rest of Iraq has been in a dark room with no lights for 35 years," he said. "And two weeks ago, we opened a door and pushed them out into the sunlight and they can not see yet."

U.S. reconstruction officials say oil is flowing in southern Iraq at the rate of 175,000 barrels a day to help generate power in the southern city of Basra. They expect oil and natural gas to begin flowing in northern Iraq within days.

Mr. Garner also says he believes Iran has influenced some recent anti-American demonstrations carried out by Iraqi Shiite Muslims who are taking advantage of a new climate of religious freedom in the wake of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. "I think what you will find here is that those [demonstrations] are well organized, if you look at them," said general Garner. "And I think what you will find is that they have a lot of Iranian influence. I certainly do not think that represents anywhere near the majority. I think the majority is very silent, being very safe. The majority is still somewhat afraid and I think as you see them get somewhat more comfortable, you will see more favoritism toward the U.S."

Later, President Bush paid tribute to coalition troops for bringing freedom to Iraq. During a speech in Ohio, the president pledged that U.S. troops will stay on until the Iraqis are able to run the country themselves. "We are working to make sure America is more secure," said President Bush. "But we are also making sure that the Iraqi people can be free, can run their own country, can decide their own fate."

Meanwhile, coalition troops have taken into custody three more wanted officials from the reign of Saddam Hussein. Those captured in recent days include the former chief of Iraqi military intelligence, the former commander of Iraq's air defenses, and the country's former trade minister.

In Geneva, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq to respect international law as, "the occupying power" in the country. And by demonstrating through their actions that they will accept the responsibilities of the occupying power for public order and safety, and the well being of the civilian population.

Those comments drew an immediate negative response from U.S. officials who take issue with the label of "occupying power."

This is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Kevin Moley. "There should be no question, certainly no question in the mind of the secretary-general, that we need to make any clearer than we already have, and have been on the record repeatedly, as being in conformance and wanting to be in conformance in every way with the Geneva Conventions," he said.

U.N. officials also say Iraq faces an array of environmental dangers in the aftermath of the war. They are calling for an immediate assessment and cleanup plan to tackle the problem.

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