- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

More than 900 Americans will be on permanent staff at a “mini-Washington” embassy in Baghdad after the U.S.-led occupation authority hands power to Iraqis on June 30, U.S. officials said yesterday.

An additional 600 to 700 foreign-service nationals will be on board by the end of the year, officials said at a briefing on plans to dissolve the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

In Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said his country would need the assistance of foreign troops after the power transfer, but indicated that the new government should have veto power over military operations.

Frank Ricciardone, the State Department’s director for the transition to Iraqi sovereignty, said in Washington that nearly half of the permanent embassy staff will be in Baghdad by the end of the month with more heading out every week.

“This is an all-star team,” he said of the staff, which will be headed by the current ambassador to the United Nations, John D. Negroponte.

He acknowledged, however, that serious security problems remain and that most of the staff will be working behind the towering concrete barriers and razor wire that wraps around the heavily fortified green zone.

Attacks on U.S. and Iraqi government targets have not abated since the naming of an interim government last week.

Saboteurs yesterday blew up a northern oil pipeline that cut output on the national power grid.

Fighting erupted for the first time since last week in the Shi’ite city of Najaf, where gunmen reportedly attacked a police station. No American troops were said to be involved.

Four members of an Iraqi force were wounded in the Sunni city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, when a mortar round exploded. First Lt. Amer Jassim told the Associated Press he thought the attackers were firing at Americans but missed.

The attack on the pipeline — which carries fuel to the Beiji power station, one of Iraq’s largest — forced a 10 percent cutback in the country’s 4,000-megawatt production, an Oil Ministry spokesman told Dow Jones Newswires.

Mr. Allawi said the level of violence meant foreign forces would be needed after June 30 but that they would not act without the consent of his government and would be asked to leave as soon as Iraqi forces were ready to deal with security.

“The multinational forces will not act except with the full agreement of the Iraqi government,” Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

In Washington, officials said the United States has chosen a site to build its embassy, but they still had to negotiate with the Iraqi authorities.

Mr. Ricciardone insisted that the embassy would not succeed the CPA, which has run Iraq since last year.

“We don’t tell sovereign governments what to do; we mostly ask,” the diplomat said.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will be the largest American embassy in the world. Until it is completed, one of Saddam Hussein’s former residential palaces will house the interim chancery.

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