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Iraqi PM Tells Nation Foreign Troops Still Needed After Return of Sovereignty - 2004-06-04

Iraq's new prime minister introduced himself to his countrymen in his first televised address to the nation since his appointment last week. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi warned insurgents to end their fight against U.S. and other foreign troops, which he says are needed for Iraq's security. Also on Friday, Iraqi police have detained a known terrorist and murder suspect.

When it comes to security, Prime Minister Allawi says, the U.S.-led coalition forces will still be needed after the June 30 transition.

In his TV address to the nation, the new Iraqi prime minister says the coalition forces are helping rebuild Iraq's military structure, which is not yet capable of handling security issues on its own. Forcing them to leave Iraq, Mr. Allawi says, would inflict a major disaster.

That message is being reinforced by the interim administration's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, during his talks in New York with the U.N. Security Council.

On Thursday, Mr. Zebari stressed that a U.N. resolution endorsing Iraq's sovereignty should make sure Iraqis have a voice in how long foreign troops remain in the country.

?It is an objective reality in Iraq today that we require the continued assistance and partnership of these troops, but we also need this presence to be regulated under arrangements that neither compromise the sovereignty of the interim government, nor the right of the multinational force to defend itself,? he said.

At the same time, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report on human rights in Iraq that credits the U.S.-led coalition with ending Saddam Hussein's abusive rule, but it also criticizes the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces.

In his address to the nation Friday, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi underlined the key role of the international community in Iraq's reconstruction.

The interim administration's president, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, will attend next week's summit of the world's industrialized countries in the U.S. state of Georgia.

He is expected to outline Iraq's priority needs for the transition to elections, including easing its debt burden. The Bush administration is pushing Iraq's lenders to forgive the bulk of its $120 million of foreign debt.

In other news, U.S. troops and Shi'ite militia have agreed to withdraw from the holy Shi'ite cities of Najaf and Kufa, leaving Iraqi police in charge of security. Fighters loyal to the militant Shi'ite cleric Moktada al-Sadr have been battling coalition forces for several weeks now. And U.S. officials in Baghdad say Iraqi police have detained Umar Baziani a known terrorist and murder suspect and associate of Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is wanted for a number of terrorist incidents in Iraq.