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School Opens Despite Insecurity in Iraq - 2003-05-28


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has confirmed he will visit Iraq this week. The British Prime Minister would be the first Western leader to visit Iraq since the end of the U.S.-led war there. Brian Purchia reports on reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

Iraq’s city of Basra has a long way to go before life returns to normal, but British troops are helping make this transition easier.

NATURAL SOUND - CLAPPING

This school was once used by Saddam’s militia. It was ransacked two months ago and it has just re-opened.

British Sergeant Rachel Webster found funding and a builder to get the school up and running again. Now, students are able to attend without fear.

SERGEANT RACHEL WEBSTER, BRITISH MILITARY POLICE
"When you leave the school and you see the rubbish on the streets and you see the people looting and you hear the stories of the things that have happened, all we hope for is that these girls are going to make a difference, as well as the boys here."

Others are less fortunate, as school in Basra reopens, many other Iraqi children – especially girls – are being kept away from their classes because of a lack of security. U.S. Army Captain Joe Eskinam.

CAPTAIN JOE ESKINAM, U.S. ARMY
"They have a fear that there may be people trying to hurt the children, and definitely with the change of regime, obviously the regime going away, there's a sense of, they don't have that government order. We're trying to provide that to them."

Many Iraqis are complaining that Americans are not supplying enough soldiers to protect the children.

NATURAL SOUND – UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI MAN SPEAKING
"These looters and killers, invaders, I call them invaders. No explanation for this. They are threatening the teachers, the orphans, to kill them if they begin to study, to live here again. The U.S. Army says we don't have enough soldiers. How they invade Iraq and they don't have enough soldiers to protect the teachers and the orphans?"

Coalition forces say they will continue to work with Iraqis to restore order and a sense of normalcy for the children of Iraq.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Iraqi Information Ministry employees let go by the U.S. administration demonstrated in the Iraqi capital Wednesday alongside engineering students protesting the closure of their Defense Ministry facility.

The civil servants marched from the bombed-out and looted ministry in the city center to the former presidential complex, which serves as headquarters for the American administration.

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