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
"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
"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
"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
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