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Exiled Iraqi Appointed Chief Baghdad Civil Administrator and Police Chief - 2003-04-13

A new Iraqi civil administrator and police chief have been named to help bring some law and order to the streets of Baghdad. And former police officers are lining up for work.

Mohamed Meseen announced his appointment as Baghdad's top civil administrator and his mission to get the city's public services running again, and to get the police force back on the streets.

He has been appointed by the American military in consultation with tribal elders.

He huddles with other professionals trying to put together a list of experts to sort out the city's problems, from getting the electricity and water distribution systems functioning again, to selecting and outfitting the police force.

The Iraqi official returned to Baghdad a few days ago from 23 years in exile. He is a member of the exiled opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress.

Businessman Ahmed Izzat who came to volunteer his services says that is a problem. Nobody in Baghdad knows who he is.

"They are saying he is coming from outside, and he does not understand what is going on inside Iraq. So, he is a stranger here," he said. "You must find the people who are living here in Baghdad, and they know the area very well."

For the past two days, the people who know how to police the city, former police officers, have heeded announcements on the radio to come and sign up for work.

"I will sacrifice my life for anything they ask me to arrange in this country, how to organize my country," said a man, who dressed in his neatly pressed blue police chief's uniform, standing proudly on the street in front of a group of soldiers. "Maybe it is just the traffic now, but later on, who[ever] ask me to do something more, I will do [it]."

The first problem is to identify legitimate police officers, and make sure they were not part of the dreaded security forces loyal to Saddam Hussein. The men signing up for work must show their identification cards. Some retired police chiefs have turned up to offer their help with the selection process.

Sporadic gunfire and looting still punctuate life, day and night, making it hazardous for many families to venture outside. Residents of Baghdad have been complaining loudly about a city they consider out of control. They are demanding that the coalition forces who ousted Saddam Hussein restore law and order.

U.S. Major David Cooper says the first Iraqi police officers who go out on the street will accompany American military patrols, partly for their own protection.

"They will initially be with the military patrols, so there is a level of authority that is there, and legitimacy," said Major Cooper. "We do not want to put the police officers at risk. We believe they are interested in working for Iraq. They are not involved with the regime."

Major Cooper says the police officers will start working on their own after some order has been re-established in the city, and they regain the trust of the people.