Baghdad security plan is now ready

Updated: 2007-01-06 21:26

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's prime minister said Saturday that Iraqi forces will lead a new effort - with US help - to wrest control of Baghdad's neighborhoods from militias and other sectarian killers.

"The Baghdad security plan is now ready, and we will depend on our armed forces to implement it with multinational forces behind them. Field leaders will ask for help from these forces if needed," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a speech at the 85th anniversary celebration of the Iraqi army.

Iraqi forces will begin a neighborhood-by-neighborhood assault on militants in the capital this weekend, as a first step in the new White House strategy to contain Sunni insurgents and Shiite death squads, key advisers to the prime minister said.

"The Baghdad security plan will not offer a safe shelter for outlaws regardless of their ethnic and political affiliations, and we will punish anyone who hesitates to implement orders because of his ethnic and political background," al-Maliki said Saturday.

The first details of the new plan - a fresh bid to pacify the capital - emerged Friday, a day after President Bush and al-Maliki spoke for nearly two hours by video conference. Bush was also expected to detail his vision of a new strategy in the coming days.

It was unknown whether the new effort had begun by Saturday afternoon. There was no evidence of elevated American or Iraqi troop levels on Baghdad's streets, and there were only routine levels of violence.

Police said two car bombs killed four civilians in separate attacks in the Iraqi capital on Saturday. A parked car exploded near a fuel station in the southern neighborhood of Dora at midday, killing three people and wounding four others, police said.

Another car bomb targeted the convoy of a high-ranking Iraqi police officer in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah, killing a pedestrian and wounding six. The head of emergency police in the Iraqi capital, Maj. Gen. Ali al-Yassiri, survived the attack on his convoy in a commercial area of the Karradah neighborhood, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorize to talk to media. Three of his bodyguards were hurt.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a US military spokesman in Iraq, said this past week that any new effort to stabilize Baghdad would likely involve traditional, large-scale US operations as well as nighttime raids by smaller, more mobile forces.

"We're going to go after anyone who operates outside the law," Caldwell said.

On Saturday, al-Maliki asked residents of the Iraqi capital for patience during the new security operation.

"We are fully aware that implementing the plan will lead to some harassment to all of beloved Baghdad's residents, but we are confident that they fully understand the brutal terrorist attacks Iraq faces," the prime minister said.

Al-Maliki also defended his government's execution of Saddam Hussein, amid speculations that the former leader's execution chamber was infiltrated by militiamen who taunted Saddam in his final moments of life.

"The execution of the tyrant was not a political decision, as the enemies of the Iraqi people say. The verdict was implemented after a fair and transparent trial, which the dictator never deserved," al-Maliki said.

He also accused other governments, without naming them, of meddling in Iraqi affairs with their criticism of Saddam's hanging.

"We consider the execution of the dictator an internal issue, and we reject and condemn all acts of some governments," al-Maliki said. "The Iraqi government could be forced to reconsider its relations with any government that doesn't respect the will of the Iraqi people."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has condemned the conduct of Saddam's execution and its timing at the start of a Muslim religious festival, saying in an interview published Friday that the hanging made the deposed leader "a martyr."

"It was disgraceful and very painful," Mubarak told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot in an interview Thursday.

Al-Maliki's aides said Friday that disagreement remained between Bush and Iraqi officials on key issues.

The Iraqi leader is uneasy about the possible introduction of more US troops, they said, and he has repeatedly refused US demands to crush the militia of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the prime minister's most powerful backers.

Any serious drive to curb the extreme chaos and violence in the capital would put not only American forces but al-Maliki's Iraqi army in direct confrontation with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Sami al-Askari, an al-Maliki political adviser, told The Associated Press on Friday that the prime minister continues to press for a rapid US withdrawal from the capital to bases "on the outskirts of Baghdad."

Al-Askari and Hassan al-Suneid, another top al-Maliki aide and lawmaker from his Dawa Party, said the fresh security push would be open-ended once initiated this weekend.

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