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US Administrator for Iraq:  Security is Top Concern - 2003-06-17

The top American administrator for Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer, said security remains at the top of his agenda. At a news conference in Baghdad, he also said a team of military experts has begun to arrive in Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction.

Ambassador Bremer said Iraqi police have arrested two more senior officials of the former regime, the head of the former ruling Baath party in Karbala, along with the chief of the secret police in the northern city of Kirkuk.

He said the arrests are part of an overall effort to establish security. There have been almost daily attacks against U.S. forces. "The people who are attacking the coalition and who are trying to upset the security here are, of course, in the first instance attacking us. But in the end they are really attacking the Iraqis because they are really trying to undermine security and security is the first and most important role of any government to its citizens so it's at the top of our list," Mr. Bremer said.

Ambassador Bremer also said there was clear evidence, based on intelligence before the war, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He said a team of military experts has begun to arrive in the country to carry out the search.

"We have received just this week a group of some 13,000-14,000 military analysts and specialists who are in the process now of deploying here to Iraq and who will coordinate with the assistance of David Kay, a former inspector, the search for evidence for weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Ambassador Bremer said the search would be thorough and could take some time.

Mr. Bremer also announced the establishment of a new central criminal court to deal with the most serious criminal offenders, but he said the court would also respect the rule of law and human and civil rights. He said it is intended to show Iraqis the U.S.-led civil administration takes the security issue very seriously.

Ambassador Bremer also said bringing Iraq's economy back to life is a top priority. He has been meeting with Iraqi business representatives and political leaders and said he would be traveling with some of them to Jordan this week to attend a special economic forum to discuss Iraq.