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Iraqi Officials Condemn Killing of Governing Council Chairman - 2004-05-17


Iraqi officials are condemning the killing of Iraq Governing Council Chairman Izzidin Salim in Baghdad. Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said the attack is the work of those who want to derail the process toward creating a new, democratic Iraq. He spoke in Jordan from a conference on the Dead Sea coast.

Mr. Zebari said he is deeply saddened by the news of Izzidin Salim's death. He said all those who stood up to the challenge of creating a new, post-Saddam Iraq knew they might become targets for assassination. "We will not be cowed, we will not be intimidated, and we will continue the march for the new Iraq," he said.

Foreign Minister Zebari said he too has been targeted for attack a number of times - while riding in his convoy and even in his office at the foreign ministry. He said the attacks are the work of those who stand against a free and democratic Iraq and who want, instead, an Iraq based on fear and violence.

Mr. Salim, a Shiite Muslim from the southern city of Basra, held the rotating chairmanship of Iraq's Interim Governing Council. He was a long-time member of the Iraqi opposition.

He was killed along with several other people, including his deputy, in a bomb explosion in central Baghdad, near the heavily guarded Council and coalition headquarters.

Mr. Salim's successor as head of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, called the killing a great tragedy that affected all Iraqis. "With this terrorist act, vile act and cowardly act, against this man whose positions were very moderate and brave, it is a great loss to our people and their aspirations. But the brothers of murdered Salim and the children of our country and the [Governing Council] will not retreat from the march for which he devoted all of his life, the march toward freedom and happiness for our people, a march for rebuilding Iraq, democratic and federalist and unified," he said.

Speaking in Baghdad, Mr. al-Yawer refered to Mr. Salim and the others killed with him as martyrs, and he mentioned particularly Mr. Salim's deputy Talib Kasem al-Haqami. He said the people who carry out such attacks should be ashamed, and that their actions increase the suffering of the Iraqi people and could extend the occupation.

U.S. and British officials say the transfer of sovereignty to a new Iraqi government will happen at the end of June as promised, but they also say foreign troops will need to stay in the country for some time to help the new government restore order.

Foreign Minister Zebari confirmed in comments that Iraq will require the presence of foreign troops for some time. He said Iraqis want to take responsibility for their own affairs, but the premature departure of the coalition forces could mean disaster because Iraqis are not yet prepared to take over the security challenges facing their country.

The top U.S. administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, condemned Monday's killing as vile.

Mr. Salim is the second Governing Council member to be assassinated. Last September, Aquila al-Hashemi, one of three women on the Governing Council was shot.

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