- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

BASRA, Iraq — The nucleus of Iraq’s interim government could be in place in a matter of days, U.S. officials said yesterday.The northern city of Mosul, meanwhile, took a step toward forming a municipal government, selecting a cross section of residents to run the city alongside the American military until elections can be held, U.S. military officials said.This is the first instance that Iraqis have voted to choose their leaders since the U.S.-led invasion led to the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime early last month.Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the interim civilian administrator in Iraq, said he expected a “nucleus” of Iraqis to assume leadership of the country. The idea was discussed last week at a meeting in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.He said he did not know whether the nucleus would evolve into a collective executive.”I don’t know whether there will be one guy or five guys or three,” Mr. Garner said during a trip to southern Iraq.”By the middle of the month, you’ll really see a beginning of a nucleus of an Iraqi government with an Iraqi face on it that is dealing with the coalition,” he said.Iraqi faction leaders and U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said they would meet again in coming weeks and hoped to form an interim government early next month.The Iraqi leaders Mr. Garner referred to were Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord, and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose elder brother leads the Shi’ite group Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.The group of leaders has met several times, and Mr. Garner said it would probably be expanded to include a Christian and perhaps a Sunni Arab leader.Mr. Garner also said he expects the newly appointed L. Paul Bremer, former chief of the State Department’s counterterrorism office, to take charge of the political process within the postwar administration. Mr. Bremer is expected in Iraq by next week, Mr. Garner said.”He will get more involved in the political process. I’m doing all of it and don’t want to do all of it,” Mr. Garner said.He said such an appointment had been planned all along. “I’ll stay awhile. There’s got to be a good handoff,” he said.In Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, more than 200 representatives of tribal and ethnic groups chose a mayor and a city council. Retired army Gen. Ghanim al-Boso, a 58-year-old Arab, was selected as mayor.”This is the first step on the road to democracy. I promise I will be a faithful soldier,” said Mr. Boso, who was forced to retire from the army in 1993 after being accused of conspiring against Saddam’s government.Lt. Col. Ryan Gonsalves, a U.S. military commander in the city of Tikrit, said the council would be a “representation from the entire city of Mosul.” He said people with expertise in various areas would be part of the council.Mr. Garner traveled yesterday to Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, where he heard from officials at the city’s General Hospital. Outside the closed-door meeting, Dr. Hussein al-Farhan said about 70 people a day seek treatment for ailments related to a lack of clean water.”There are many cases of gastroenteritis because of bad water,” he said, adding that the hospital is short of drugs, particularly painkillers and anesthetics.”Aid organizations are bringing only water when we need drugs as well,” he said.Doctors also complained of security problems in the city.Mr. Garner and his team visited several wards in the poorly supplied, ill-kept hospital.”We will bring in quick cash to make a quick difference,” said Mr. Garner’s deputy, British Maj. Gen. Tim Cross. He stressed, however, that this would not be a long-term commitment to rebuilding Iraq’s health care system.The newly named regional coordinator, Danish Ambassador Ole Wohlers Olsen, said he planned to return to Basra on Friday with cash to pay doctors’ salaries and meet other commitments.From the hospital, Mr. Garner’s entourage drove to the Shueiba oil refinery, which is Iraq’s second-largest refinery. Its general manager, Taha Ibrahim, told reporters that it resumed operations Thursday and is processing 70,000 barrels of oil a day, producing liquid petroleum gas, diesel oil, kerosene and gasoline.He said the site has a capacity of 180,000 barrels per day and that he expects that level to be reached in weeks or months. But he said the refinery could use some spare parts to ensure full production.Mr. Garner blamed U.N. sanctions for gasoline shortages that have triggered anger in some Iraqis toward U.S. forces, the New York Times reported.”The U.N. really needs to lift the sanctions, so we don’t have all of this,” Mr. Garner said.Gasoline shortages have limited public transportation and discouraged Iraqis from driving to work. President Bush has urged the U.N. Security Council to lift the sanctions, which were imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

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