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US Expects Situation in Fallujah to Calm Down

One of the areas of trouble for U.S. troops in Iraq is a small town west of Baghdad that has been the scene of several attacks on U.S. soldiers.

About an hour's drive west of Baghdad is a dusty, run-down little town known as Fallujah. Many of its children go bare foot and beg for money. Many men wear dirty rags for clothes. Buildings along the main road in town are crumbling or have collapsed.

Fallujah is made up mostly of conservative Sunni Muslims. Many residents still give their allegiance to Saddam Hussein and are vowing to sacrifice their lives in order to push coalition forces out of their town.

Tensions peaked in April between U.S. troops and residents of the town when 16 Iraqis were shot and killed following a large demonstration in Fallujah. U.S. troops said they were responding to shots being fired from the crowd.

Many residents told VOA that since the war the community has been plagued by shortages of water and electricity, as well as security problems. They say life was better when Saddam Hussein was in power.

A man said Americans are not welcome here. He said he would never shake the hand of an American because he sees coalition forces as occupiers, and he said his holy book, the Koran, tells him he must fight the occupiers.

Another man said he would send his own children to die as martyrs in the effort to oust coalition forces from Fallujah.

U.S. military patrols in Fallujah have been coming under fire in ambush-like attacks.

Last Thursday, a rocket-propelled grenade killed one U.S. soldier and wounded five others in Fallujah.

But as tense as the situation now seems to be, U.S. soldiers in the area believe things will improve. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Leo Rachmel said, given time, tensions will ease.

"I spent some time in Baghdad originally," he said. "Baghdad was like that . People did not want us there. Now, Baghdad is a very friendly place. So, I think eventually when people see we are here to help make their environment safe and secure, I think they will understand why we are here, that we are not going to leave until it becomes secure."

U.S. Army Captain John Ives agrees. He says the trouble in Fallujah is nothing new.

"When was the last time we were welcome in any country?" he asked. "We are not welcome in most of the places where we have forces overseas, anyway.

"We have always been able to overcome that adversity by taking care of the local population and I think this office right here is a great opportunity to create a relationship with the mayor," Captain Ives continued. "And, of course, all of the sheikhs come to visit, tribal leaders, also religious leaders come here and I get an opportunity to talk to them. Of course, they are the real voice out there. They are the ones that talk to the people and say, "Hey, let's settle down". They are going to turn the water on. They are going to get the electricity going. They arere going to make the streets safe. This is a good opportunity to do that and it is just going to take time. Eventually, we will win them over."

But until then, Captain Ives said there will likely be more trouble, more shootings and more attacks against U.S. forces in Fallujah.

U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, says coalition forces will do whatever is necessary to bring security to Iraq.