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US Officials Report 'Steady Progress' in Iraq - 2003-05-08

U.S. officials in charge of restoring security and stability in Iraq report steady progress, one month after Saddam Hussein was ousted from power. Lieutenant General David McKiernan, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, said security remains the top priority in Iraq. But he said restoring order will take more time.

"There is a lot of work to be done to create the right environment of safety and security in Iraq," he added. "There is still crime. There is still looting. There is still a large percentage of young ex-military Iraqis that need to be put back to work, need to earn a salary and be part of the solution."

General McKiernan says about 10,000 Iraqi policemen now are back at work, and more return every day. For now, they are teamed with American soldiers on joint patrols, but eventually will be on their own.

Retired General Jay Garner, who is in charge of helping civilian reconstruction programs, also reports steady progress.

He says more than half-a-million civil servants have received an emergency payment of 20 dollars, and the number of recipients will double in the next week. U.S. and Iraqi teams are also working on new pay scales for government workers.

He says returning workers are being screened to eliminate any members of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party, who might have been involved in corruption or human rights abuses.

Mr. Garner says much of the reconstruction programs will focus on Iraq's predominantly Shiite southern provinces, which he says suffered enormous hardships under Saddam Hussein.

"The south was the victim of three wars, a rebellion and absolutely torturous treatment by Saddam Hussein for over 30 years," said Mr. Garner. "So, it is in terrible shape. And what you're going to see is, we'll put the bulk of our effort in the south, because everything in the south is broken."

Mr. Garner reports that the southern city of Basra now has electricity all day and all night for the first time in 12 years.

U.S. teams are also continuing their search for mass graves, weapons of mass destruction and Iraqis on the U.S. government's most-wanted list of Saddam Hussein's most senior officials.