- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said in remarks released yesterday that the United States is considering a U.N.-mandated multinational force for Iraq provided an American general is in charge.

“There are several ideas being looked at,” he said. “One is a multinational force under U.N. leadership, but the American would be the U.N. commander.”

His remarks come as U.S. troops are being attacked and killed on a daily basis in Iraq and anticoalition fighters are ratcheting up their threats against all who cooperate with the United States there.

Several countries, including India, have said they would send troops to bolster the 150,000 U.S. forces and 15,000 international troops in Iraq only under a U.N. mandate.

Mr. Armitage said officials were discussing the idea with L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, but that no decision had been made.

“We’re still actively exploring it,” he told members of U.S. news syndicates.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said yesterday the concept was “one of the many ideas that are out there, that have been enunciated by a variety of people, some of it talked about publicly, some of it privately.

“We just continue to have those discussions, and we’ll see where it leads,” the spokesman told reporters.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday in separate attacks in Iraq.

President Bush insisted the United States would not bow under the threat of guerrilla warfare or terrorism in Iraq.

But nonprofit aid organizations working in Baghdad have pulled their expatriate staff out of the country in the face of what they call increasingly unacceptable security risks.

“All aid agencies are looking at their staff and security procedures,” said Nathaniel Raymond, a Boston-based spokesman for Oxfam, which has pulled its 15 expatriate staff out of Iraq.

“Security at this point is too risky, when aid workers themselves have clearly become targets and the security available cannot protect against that threat,” he said.

In light of the truck bombing of U.N. offices in Baghdad last week that left 23 dead, Mr. Raymond said, it was clear that “no determination is being made between neutral and other targets.”

Iraqi political leaders, who typically travel with a contingent of bodyguards, have beefed up their own security after a direct threat against the 15-member U.S.-approved Iraqi Governing Council by masked men in a tape broadcast Tuesday on the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite television network.

“Some measures and precautions have been taken to avoid these kinds of attack,” Entifad Qanbar, spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress (INC), said in a telephone interview from Baghdad.

Outraged by the broadcast death threats, the State Department has cabled its embassies in the region to complain to countries involved with the satellite channel.

“We find the Al Arabiya’s decision to air the remarks of these masked terrorists to be irresponsible in the extreme,” Mr. Reeker said yesterday.

A spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad said the CPA was aware of “recurring threats to Iraqis who are cooperating with the coalition efforts to bring change to the country,” but he declined to specify what steps were being taken to increase security.

“If there are threats being rendered, we don’t want to give the bad guys any indication of changes,” he said.

At least one political group was looking for increased protection, particularly after last week’s bombing in southern Iraq that injured a leading Shi’ite cleric and killed three others.

“I think these people are now considering the Governing Council as collaborators and I think we have a real concern that some members could be targeted,” said Hamid al-Hayati, spokesman for the Shi’ite based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is part of the Iraqi Governing Council.

“I think more protection should be provided to the members of the council,” Mr. al-Hayati said in a telephone interview from London.

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