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Iraqis call for sovereignty as 'Saddam' Tape Aired
( 2003-09-18 10:02) (Agencies)

Iraq's interim Governing Council urged the United States Wednesday to give Iraqis sovereign control of their country in order to end the violence that has eroded society and crippled reconstruction efforts.

"I believe the coalition authorities, as they see the performance of the Governing Council ... will come to realize that it is in their interest to move rapidly to restore sovereignty," said Ahmad Chalabi, who holds the council's rotating presidency.

"Problems of security are huge and it is in large measure because Iraqis are not involved in security issues," he added.

Making streets safe is a top priority in a country where poorly equipped Iraqi police struggle to combat street crime while U.S. troops focus on battling foreign guerrillas and Iraqi fighters loyal to ousted President Saddam Hussein.

Wednesday, the Arabic television channel Al Arabiya aired an audio tape it said was from Saddam in which he demanded Washington withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq or face "catastrophic" losses.

The speaker, who gave the date of the recording as September, also called on Iraqis to "wage holy war by all means against the foolish invaders."

"You must tighten the noose around the Americans and increase your attacks against them. You must conduct jihad by all means possible, financial and otherwise," the speaker said.


The United States toppled Saddam on April 9 and began working to put Iraqis and Iraqi exiles in positions of responsibility.

But while the U.S.-appointed 25-member Governing Council can influence policy, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, is in charge.

Chalabi, whose Iraqi National Congress exile organization supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq and advised Washington in the run-up to war, said he wanted "significant moves" in transferring power to the council in the short-term.

The United States has resisted such demands from within Iraq as well as from foreign powers, particularly France, saying it cannot risk a handover before democratic institutions are established.

Washington has said it hopes a new Iraqi government could be in place by the middle of next year, but has not specified a date or said when its troops would leave.

The U.S. administration is seeking a U.N. resolution on an international security force in Iraq to encourage countries like India and Muslim Turkey to participate.

The top U.S. military officer, General Richard Myers, said during a stop in Kosovo Wednesday he saw "great value" in deploying a multinational division in Iraq led by a Muslim nation. But he said Washington was not putting pressure on any country to assume that role.

NATO member Turkey is mulling a U.S. troop request.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signaled on Wednesday his country could provide troops for Iraq if Washington wins U.N. approval for the mission.


Britain, Germany and France, meanwhile, are meeting in Berlin Saturday to try and unify their position on a larger force in Iraq. The three countries split ahead of the war with Britain backing the U.S. invasion, and Germany and France leading the opposition.

EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten acknowledged past differences over Iraq but said during a visit to Baghdad it is in the interest of all countries to "pull off" the reconstruction and stabilization of the country.

"We are absolutely agreed in the EU that we want to help the reconstruction of Iraq as a democratic, stable, plural and open society," he said, adding, "I think the rapidity with which the coalition is able to deliver a transfer of real authority to Iraqis is the real test.

"The more that they (Iraqis) are patently in charge of the rebuilding of Iraq, as far as I am concerned, the better."

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