'Saddam' tape urges attacks on Iraq's occupiers
( 2003-09-02 07:36) (Agencies)
A tape purportedly from Saddam Hussein denied Monday he had any part in postwar Iraq's bloodiest bombing but urged more attacks on the occupiers as his U.S.-appointed successors put more power in Iraqi hands.
The U.S.-backed Governing Council appointed a cabinet of 25 ministers, most of them little-known, saying they represented the will of Iraq. But overall authority will remain with U.S. governor Paul Bremer until an elected government is installed.
Arabic television channels aired an audio tape said to be from Saddam, insisting neither he nor his followers were linked to Friday's attack in Najaf, which killed top Shi'ite Muslim cleric Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim and more than 80 others.
"The infidel invaders are accusing, without proof, the followers of Saddam Hussein after the killing of Shi'ite leader Hakim," an excerpt aired on Al Jazeera television said. "This is not what Saddam attributes to himself."
Najaf's governor has announced the arrests of up to five suspects he said were linked to Saddam's regime.
Shi'ites, long oppressed by Saddam, flocked to shrines south of Baghdad on the second day of funeral rites for Hakim, who advocated cooperation with the U.S.-led occupation and whose brother sits on the Governing Council.
U.S. Marines will stay longer than planned in Najaf before handing over to a Polish-led force, a spokesman said, while FBI agents were heading to the city to help probe the car bombing.
A full version of the tape broadcast later by Lebanon's LBC television called for more violence against the occupiers.
"O great heroes, intensify your brave blows against the foreign aggressors from wherever they come and whatever their nationalities," the voice said.
FAILURE TO PROVIDE SECURITY
U.S. officials have blamed attacks on occupying troops and other targets on supporters of Saddam, still on the run nearly five months after he was deposed in the U.S.-led war.
As the violence spirals, Iraqis have voiced anger about what they see as the occupiers' failure to provide security.
A spokesman for Iraq's U.S.-led administration said the appointment of ministers "represents a significant new step in Iraqis taking control of government and institutions of government."
The new ministers will oversee the day-to-day running of their departments while major policy decisions will be taken in consultation with the U.S.-led authority and the Governing Council. There is no prime minister.
The ministers comprise 13 Shi'ites, five Sunnis, five Kurds, one Turkmen and one Christian -- reflecting the sectarian and ethnic mix of Iraq and the Governing Council.
Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, a Shi'ite, was given the key role of oil minister, overseeing the rebuilding of a dilapidated and war-damaged industry, its only significant source of export revenue.
Kurdish official Hoshyar Zebari was named foreign minister, former exile and U.S. ally Nouri Badran interior minister and Kamel al-Keylani finance minister.
The ministers will be sworn in after Tuesday's burial of Hakim, whose coffin was driven through the streets of the cities of Kerbala and Hilla past thousands of weeping mourners.
The attack that killed Hakim has intensified international debate on stabilizing Iraq, where bombings have hit the U.N. headquarters and Jordanian embassy in Baghdad in recent weeks.
Guerrillas have killed 65 U.S. and 11 British soldiers since May 1 when President Bush declared major combat over. Violence and the cost of occupation is putting pressure on Bush, who faces mounting criticism at home.
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