- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

BAGHDAD — One top U.S. occupation official left her post yesterday, another was preparing to leave, and a new administrator arrived in the region, ready to take over, less than three weeks after their newborn reconstruction agency opened for business in postwar Baghdad.

The shake-up at the top comes as the agency makes inroads to restore law and order and government functions, but as many ordinary Iraqis complain about persistent insecurity and the slow pace of resuming basic services like power and water.

The developments came with some unsettling news for Iraqi reconstruction: Oil production, vital for recovery, may resume more slowly than thought, and it may take two more months to get electricity restored fully in Baghdad.

As if to underscore the challenges facing the Americans, arson fires sent palls of smoke billowing over the city.

The departed official, former Ambassador Barbara Bodine, was coordinator for central Iraq, including Baghdad, within the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. The office thus far has assembled some 800 specialists from U.S. government agencies and allied governments to organize aid, reconstruction and the establishment of a new Iraqi government.

An ORHA spokesman, Army Maj. John Cornelio, confirmed that Miss Bodine was leaving Baghdad yesterday. The agency didn’t explain the reason for her swift departure, just two weeks after she chaired a get-acquainted meeting with top bureaucrats of the former Baghdad city administration.

The appointment of Miss Bodine was never well-received by some Pentagon and federal law enforcement authorities, who believe that as U.S. ambassador to Yemen, she blocked an FBI investigation into the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

[A senior State Department official traveling in the Middle East with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told The Washington Times that Miss Bodine was needed in Washington, where she will become the negotiator of Article 98 bilateral agreements exempting Americans from prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

[The official said it always had been the intention to rotate American officials through ORHA and that the assignment of a new chief administrator to Iraq had created an opportunity “to move people around.”]

No replacement for Miss Bodine has been named, Maj. Cornelio said. The replacement for chief U.S. administrator Jay Garner, on the other hand, has been known for more than a week.

L. Paul Bremer flew to the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar over the weekend as he prepared to take over in Baghdad as head of ORHA. Mr. Bremer, 61, whose new agency is essentially a military administration reporting to the U.S. Central Command, flew to Qatar with the Pentagon’s top soldier, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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