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Iraq Threatens Insurgents With Harsh Punishment - 2004-07-12

The Iraqi government has delivered a strong warning to insurgents, threatening to use the same techniques as its opponents to deal with those disrupting the country's security and reconstruction. New warning came on a day when three more American soldiers were reported killed in insurgent attacks.

In the coming days, Iraq's government is expected to announce an amnesty for insurgents who agree to lay down their arms. But for those who continue threatening the country's security, Interim President Ghazi al-Yawar Monday delivered the government's most explicit warning yet, prepare to face the same kind of punishment that insurgents and terrorists are inflicting on others.

"We won't hesitate to use any force required, even if that means taking a sword and beheading anyone violating the law," he said.

It was a clear message intended for terrorists who have already beheaded two foreigners in Iraq and who are threatening to execute more if foreign troops do not leave the country and if Iraqi detainees are not released.

But while Iraq's president was talking tough about the government's response to the on-going insurgency, in Brussels, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari appeared to rule out approving any laws that would formally restore the death penalty, calling the issue a very difficult and sensitive one.

"On the other hand, we are facing a serious security and terrorist challenge to the new order," he said. "There is a need for the new government to be more decisive and tougher in its actions to bring the security situation under its control."

At that Brussels meeting, current EU President Bernard Bot of the Netherlands stressed Europe's opposition to the death penalty, which could explain why the Iraqi foreign minister's comments were not as tough on the subject as those made by president al-Yawar back in Baghdad. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters Iraq did press Europe for more help with the nation's reconstruction.

"Mr. Zebari wanted to see European Union aid go directly into Iraq rather than going through intermediaries of the international financial institutions like the World Bank or United Nations agencies," said Mr. Straw.

In step that could help increase Iraqi/EU cooperation, France became the latest nation Monday to restore diplomatic relations with Baghdad.