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Delegates in Iraq Pick Date to Choose Interim Government

In Iraq, an important meeting in Baghdad produces this key result—a decision by some 250 delegates representing various Iraqi groups to hold a national conference within four weeks to choose an interim government. The U.S. official in charge of coordinating the reconstruction of Iraq, retired U.S, Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner, met with the delegates Monday for talks on the creation of a new iraqi government. Amy Katz has more.

The decision came at the end of the one-day conference. The meeting took place under heavy security on ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s 66th birthday, which until this year was a public holiday. General Garner opened the talks.

“Today, on the birthday of Saddam Hussein, let us start the democratic process for the children of Iraq.”

General Garner pledged his staff would provide Iraqis with the resources needed to build a new government. Iraqi delegates to the conference included Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim clerics as well as Kurds and tribal chiefs.

Many thanked the U.S. for ousting Saddam Hussein, but they also stressed that Iraq can only be led by Iraqis. There was sharp disagreement over how large a role the U.S. should play in rebuilding the war-torn country.

General Garner told the delegates an effort is underway to improve security throughout Iraq, but there are two major challenges.

“And the question would be, ‘Where do you need security? And how do we bring forth a police force that is accepted by the people?”

Meanwhile, in Baghdad Sunday, U.S. forces detained Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubeidi, the self-declared mayor of the city. U.S. officials said he had been obstructing coalition efforts to get Iraqis back to work and was exercising authority he did not have.

Also on Sunday, Iraq’s former chief liaison with United Nations weapons inspectors, Hossam Mohamed Amin, surrendered to U.S. forces. He was the 13th person on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials to be taken into custody.