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Iraq May Form Paramilitary Unit to Search for Resistance Fighters - 2003-11-05

Iraq may soon be forming a paramilitary unit that would join coalition forces in the search for resistance fighters.

President of the Iraqi Governing Council, Jalal Talabani, says the Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority are close to an agreement on the formation of an Iraqi paramilitary unit that would have broad police and military powers.

The unit would be responsible, among other things, for gathering intelligence, conducting raids, and interrogating suspects.

Mr. Talabani, who holds this month's rotating presidency, told a news conference there must be greater Iraqi participation in the country's security.

Mr. Talabani says Iraq must take part in the safety and security of its own country. He says the Iraqi Interior Ministry has put together a comprehensive secret plan to increase security and that the Governing Council is trying to win approval for the plan by the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer.

It was reported, by the Washington Post that Mr. Bremer has given his conditional approval for the plan, but wants several specific conditions to be met, including supervision of training and the selection of participants in the units.

Mr. Talabani said he believes most of the attacks against coalition troops and Iraqi security personnel are being carried out by foreign fighters associated with the al-Qaida terror network. He said Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, and Iran had given assurances they would work to prevent terrorists from crossing their borders into Iraq.

While security remains a top concern in Iraq, Mr. Talabani says gaining Iraq's independence is equally as important.

"Nowadays, the security is the more important issue, but we are thinking that the most important thing is to … the most important task is to build a democratic, parliamentarian, united, and independent Iraq," he said. "To regain our independence and our sovereignty as soon as possible."

Mr. Talabani said the Governing Council is in what he described as "advanced stages" of writing a new constitution. He said the Council's constitutional committee would soon present four options to the full Council for writing Iraq's new constitution, although he did not elaborate on what those options will be.

Mr. Talabani says he plans to travel to Turkey later this month in an effort to ease tensions between the two countries, following Turkey's decision last month to send troops to Iraq to join the coalition forces. That decision was opposed by the Iraqi Governing Council.