- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 17 (UPI) — Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, president of the so-called civilian administration of Baghdad, said Thursday that the U.S. military presence in Iraq was for liberation and not for occupation.

Al-Zubaidi, a close ally of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress chief, also promised to compensate Iraqi citizens for material losses arising from rampant looting and robberies that targeted public and private institutions in the past few days.

He said special committees would be formed to make decisions on compensation for looting, which hurt many businesses.

"The United States is appreciated for liberating Iraq," Chalabi, who was appointed Wednesday, told United Press International.

He said the U.S. military presence in Iraq was temporary and linked to "holding free democratic elections, which would lead to the formation of a national Iraqi government."

Al-Zubaidi told tribal leaders and prominent Iraqis who met him at the Palestine Hotel on Thursday that a "future Iraqi government, which will result from free elections, will ask the United States to leave the country."

He slammed Saddam Hussein's ousted regime as an "aggressive rule that oppressed its people and neighbors," stressing that "we are now in the age of freedom and democracy."

He said the civilian administration was appointed to restore order and an executive administrative council would be chosen during the next few days to run the country on an interim basis.

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