Official: Iraqi government won't include legislature
A proposed interim government that could assume power in Iraq on June 30 would "represent the diversity of Iraq" but would not include any legislature until elections could be held, a U.S. State Department official was quoted by CNN Thursday.
"We don't believe that the period between the first of July and the end of December should be a time for making new laws," Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman said.
Grossman said the plan put forward by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi would be led by a president, two vice presidents and a prime minister. It would have a council of ministers to work with the prime minister and an advisory council selected by a national conference.
The government could be assembled by mid-May, Grossman said, with Brahimi recommending who would hold key positions. It would run the country until elections could be held in January 2005.
"The interim government should have all the necessary authorities it needs to lead Iraq into the community of nations, and especially to undertake agreements with economic reconstruction and to prepare the country for elections," Grossman said. "And as I say, given that criteria, we are pleased with the sketch that Ambassador Brahimi provided of his proposed way forward, and believe his idea fits in our vision."
Brahimi is expected to explain the plan in more detail next week before the U.N. Security Council.
Grossman said he has a "high degree of confidence" that the new government will accept the interim constitution drawn up by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.
"As Mr. Brahimi went around to his consultations and starts to make his list of people who are going to be on this government and that he would recommend be on this government, I would imagine among the questions he would ask them would be, 'Do you believe in the Transitional Administrative Law? Do you believe in the bill of rights? Do you believe in this timeline?' And I think that would be a prudent thing for him to do," Grossman said.
The White House confirmed Thursday that the administration is moving to adjust a postwar policy that blocks top members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from Iraqi government and military positions.
The ban was put in place by civilian administrator Paul Bremer, but he now wants to tweak the policy as part of an effort to convince Sunnis they are welcome members of the postwar political transition in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Thursday that he believes the United States needs about 10,000 more troops to provide security in Iraq amid an ongoing insurgency.
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, McCain said the U.S. military presence in Iraq -- now totaling about 135,000 -- was "insufficient." He said American commanders needed at least one more division, about 10,000 troops, "and possibly more."
"We should increase the number of forces, including Marines and Special Forces, to conduct offensive operations," he said. "There's also a dire need for other types of forces, including linguists, intelligence officers and civil affairs personnel."
Only days left to find peace in Fallujah
U.S. officials voiced frustration Thursday about efforts in Fallujah to broker peace during a tenuous cease-fire that has been continuously interrupted by violence.
Six rockets and five mortars fell 500 meters short of the Jordanian Field Hospital on the outskirts of the flashpoint Sunni Triangle town Thursday but there were no injuries or damage, officials said.
Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor said "time is running out" for a peaceful solution and "we are in a mode right now of days, not weeks."
Near Fallujah Thursday night, soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, assigned to the 1st Marine Division killed an insurgent and captured 12 others during raids. Weaponry and ammunition was seized.
Military officials voiced displeasure with a weapons handover effort and the lackluster effort of residents to carry out this and other steps that would lead to peace.
Marine Lt. Gen. Jim Conway, in Fallujah, said only about "a pick-up full" of weapons have been turned in.
He agreed with a characterization that the weapons collected so far have been "junk," saying the weapons are "things I wouldn't ask my Marines to fire."
A Marine news release listed weaponry handed over so far: Six machine guns and two SA-7 missile launchers -- all broken beyond repair; one sniper rifle and a flamethrower -- neither in usable condition; seven rocket-propelled grenade launchers -- some inoperable; 21 RPG projectiles that were not explosive and 113 corroded and rusted mortar rounds.
Kimmitt said the handover so far "is not a serious expression of intent" and said "a large field full of the heavy weapons that have been used against the people in Fallujah, and been used against the coalition forces in Fallujah, that's the minimum."
Senor said Fallujans must oust "foreign fighters, drug users, former Mukhabarat, Special Republican Guard, former Fedayeen Saddam, and other serious, dangerous, violent criminals operating out of Fallujah."
Asked by reporters about the drug remark, Senor said city leaders said "that many of the individuals involved with the violence are on various drugs. It is part of what they're using to keep them up to engage in this violence at all hours."
The fighters, Conway said, consist of a "hard core of a couple of hundred" foreign fighters and several hundred others "influenced by their imams and the idea of jihad." They have been using minarets as sniper nests, ambulances to ferry fighters and weapons, and mosques as command centers, he said.
Marines launched an offensive early in the month to root out insurgents and their supporters after four U.S. security contractors were killed, mutilated and dragged through the streets on March 31.
After days of pitched battles, a cease-fire was called and negotiations began.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health has told CNN that 271 people in Fallujah have been killed and 793 wounded since April 5.
Mourning and protests in Basra
Sa'ad Al-Amily from the executive office of the director-general for the ministry said 28 children and 24 women were among the dead. The ministry cannot determine how many of the deaths were combat-related.
Mourners in the southern Iraqi city of Basra Thursday buried dozens of people killed one day earlier in simultaneous car bombings at three police stations and a police academy.
At least 68 people -- including 18 children -- died in the blasts; around 100 others were injured.
Five coalition soldiers were injured, one seriously, British forces spokesman Capt. Hisham al-Halawi told CNN.
Basra, which is in a relatively quiet region of Iraq, is under the control of British coalition forces.
A joint investigation into the blasts has been launched by Iraqi police and the British military. But al-Halawi said it was too early to speculate on who carried out the attacks.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Army spokesman, said the tactics used in the attack "clearly points to" a terror network, such as the one associated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terror suspect with al Qaeda links.
Franco Jacques Biro was shot dead and two people were wounded Thursday in a Baghdad market, Police Maj. Ahmad Abdullah said. Abdullah said Americans told him Biro worked for the coalition and was a South African with French ethnicity.
Swiss officials say two of its citizens employed by non-governmental organizations in Iraq were freed after two days of detainment by an unknown group.
A Jerusalem Arab held hostage in Iraq was released Thursday, his employer, RTI International, announced. Nabil Razzouk, 30, of East Jerusalem, was part of RTI's local governance project in Najaf supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. He had been held since April 8.