- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

BAGHDAD — The temporary Iraqi Health Ministry chief hand-picked by the United States resigned just 10 days into the job after widespread protests for his close ties to Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, coalition radio announced yesterday.

Dr. Ali Shenan al-Janabi had refused to renounce the party, the U.S.-controlled Voice of New Iraq radio station said, quoting the ministry.

The May 3 appointment of Dr. al-Janabi — an optometrist who was the ministry’s No. 3 man under Saddam — triggered protests by hundreds of doctors and pharmacists who marched last week to demand his removal.

Stephen Browning, senior adviser to the Health Ministry from the U.S. Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, had earlier praised Dr. al-Janabi, describing him as a “Ba’ath Party member who is not associated with criminal activities.”

But the Health Ministry, in a statement read yesterday, said Mr. Browning had accepted Dr. al-Janabi’s resignation “due to his refusal to condemn the Ba’ath Party.” It did not elaborate.

“Dr. [al-Janabi] will be assigned as a specialist physician at Ibn al-Haitham Hospital,” a radio announcer said. “Mr. Browning added that Dr. [al-Janabi] is a respected gentleman and that he appreciates what he offered the transitional government.”

In the north, soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division found a second trailer that experts believe was a mobile biological weapons laboratory, the division’s commander said yesterday.

Maj. Gen. David Petraeus said troops found the trailer Friday at al-Kindi, the largest missile research facility in Iraq. He said the trailer is “close to identical” to another found last month in the same area that U.S. officials believe was a mobile germ weapons workshop.

U.S. forces also have helped reopen a border crossing between the Mosul region in northern Iraq and Syria for trade, Gen. Petraeus said.

In Washington, a Pentagon source told Agence France-Presse yesterday that another member on the United States’ 55 “most-wanted” list has been captured. He was identified as Fedil Mahmud Gharib, a regional commander of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.

“He was captured somewhere in Iraq within the past 24 hours,” the source said. “I don’t have any other details.”

As of May 7, 20 of the 55 had been captured, according to the U.S. Central Command.

The newly arrived American civilian administrator for Iraq, meanwhile, faced daunting tasks during his first full day in Baghdad yesterday: restoring security, power, clean water and other services to an Iraqi capital demanding them back.

L. Paul Bremer, who arrived in the U.S.-occupied country Monday, made his first stop in the southern city of Basra, where he conferred with British officials in charge of establishing order. He then flew to Baghdad, where his reconstruction agency is headquartered.

Mr. Bremer will become the boss of the current U.S. administrator, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who has faced severe criticism in Iraq and ridicule in foreign capitals for his slowness in establishing public order, preventing looting and restoring utilities and other basic government services throughout the country.

Mr. Bremer was scheduled to hold his first news conference yesterday, but it was canceled three hours before it was set to begin.

The arrival of Mr. Bremer coincided with a wide-ranging shake-up in the U.S. administration in Iraq formed after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Mr. Bremer said former U.S. Ambassador Barbara Bodine, who was coordinator for Baghdad and the rest of central Iraq, was being reassigned back to Washington by the State Department “for their own reasons.”

Other U.S. officials are also said to be slated for replacement.

In the mainly Shi’ite city of Najaf, a top Muslim cleric appeared to backtrack on statements calling for “a modern Islamic regime” that he made Saturday on his return from 23 years in exile in neighboring Iran.

“Neither an Islamic government nor a secular administration will work in Iraq but a democratic state that respects Islam as the religion of a majority of the population,” Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim told reporters.

The toned-down comments could have been be intended to allay U.S. fears that Ayatollah al-Hakim, who commands a wide following among Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Muslims, was advocating an Iranian-style clerical regime.

Top administration officials in Washington have stressed that the United States will not allow a fundamentalist regime to gain power in Iraq.

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