- The Washington Times - Friday, June 4, 2004

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s new prime minister, in his first address to the nation yesterday, called for an end to guerrilla attacks and warned Iraqis that the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops now would be a “major disaster.”

The televised speech by Iyad Allawi — a longtime exile with close ties to the CIA and the State Department — was the first by an Iraqi head of government since Saddam Hussein fell a year ago.

For the past year, such addresses have come from top U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer or from the president of the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council, a position that rotated every month.

Mr. Allawi, appointed last week to head the interim government taking power on June 30, defended the continued presence of 138,000 U.S. troops and thousands of troops from other nations on Iraqi soil even after the turnover of sovereignty.

“The targeting of the multinational forces under the leadership of the United States to force them to leave Iraq would inflict a major disaster on Iraq, especially before the completion of the building of security and military institutions,” Mr. Allawi said.

Hours later in New York, the United States and Britain revised their U.N. Security Council resolution on transferring sovereignty to Iraq, giving the interim government authority to order the multinational force to leave at any time.

The previous draft introduced Tuesday declared the council’s readiness to terminate the force’s mandate by January 2006 or at the request of the government formed after elections held by Jan. 31, 2005.

Mr. Allawi’s speech was aired on Al Iraqiyah, the nationwide TV station set up and funded by the United States, and was picked up by Arab satellite stations Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. Throughout the speech, the camera focused tightly on the prime minister’s face, giving no indication of where he was speaking from.

Mr. Allawi stressed security as his top priority that would ensure true sovereignty of the Iraqi people and urged an end to terrorist attacks.

“And I would like to mention here that the coalition forces, too, have offered up the blood of their sons as a result of terror attacks,” he said.

Mr. Allawi also said the new president, Ghazi al-Yawer, will attend the Group of Eight summit being hosted by President Bush in Sea Island, Ga., next week.

Mr. Bush, traveling in Europe, welcomed Mr. al-Yawer to the summit “to discuss how political, social and economic rebirth of Iraq can contribute to the cause of reform throughout the region,” a White House statement said.

Mr. Allawi was named to head the 33-member government in part because he was seen as strong on security. The administration will rule Iraq until elections are held by Jan. 31 to create a national assembly, which will then choose a new government.

The prime minister thanked the United States, Britain and other coalition nations for their role in ousting the former regime of Saddam Hussein. But he added, “Iraqis can never accept occupation.

“We are ready to end the occupation and receive sovereignty on June 30 and our government has begun effective participation in the ongoing discussions in the Security Council to adopt a new resolution regarding the transfer of full sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government,” he said.

The status of the multinational force, and its relationship with the interim Iraqi government, has proved to be the stickiest issue on the resolution.

While the latest draft resolution — the third in less than two weeks — addressed some concerns raised by Iraq and Security Council members, it didn’t address the relationship between the new interim government and the force.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had asked the council to detail this relationship. The Iraqis want a partnership with the force and to be consulted on major military operations that have political implications — such as the bloody, three-week Marine siege of Fallujah, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.

Mr. Zebari told the Security Council on Thursday that the incoming government wants the multinational force to stay to prevent civil war, and he told the Associated Press yesterday that he could not foresee its departure before power is transferred to the new government early next year.

The revised draft circulated to Security Council members includes what Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have stated publicly — that American and British troops will leave if asked.

It declares that the council will terminate the mandate for the multinational force after elections or earlier “if requested by the sovereign government of Iraq.”

The draft also spells out limits on the new government’s activities, barring it from taking “any actions affecting Iraq’s destiny” beyond the seven months it will be in power.

Mr. Allawi said his administration would work toward national unity after the divisions created by the fall of Saddam and the U.S. occupation.

“Former Ba’athists can live with dignity in society so long as they have not committed any crimes,” he added.

Mr. Allawi, a Shi’ite Muslim, also expressed appreciation to the country’s most influential Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, and others in the “revered religious leadership in supporting the political process.”

Ayatollah al-Sistani gave a tacit endorsement of the new government if it succeeds in regaining full sovereignty, preparing for new elections, and improving security and conditions for Iraq’s 25 million people.

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