Iraq Costs In 'Tens Of Billions'

Iraqis look at the burning Central Telecommunications building in downtown Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday May 11, 2003. When Saddam Hussein's regime was in power, the department, which ran the country's public viewing television channel, was housed in the building. The cause of the blaze was unknown. AP

The top American civilian in Iraq predicted it will take "several tens of billions" of dollars to reconstruct the country, telling a newspaper in Wednesday's editions that the price tag is "almost impossible to exaggerate."

L. Paul Bremer told The Washington Post that Iraqi oil revenue won't cover the cost, which is on top of the $4 billion monthly bill for military action.

To cover the cost, a State Department official says the White House is preparing to ask Congress for a "huge" supplemental spending bill. Bremer said he is discussing with the interim Governing Council another way to raise money — opening the country and its 192 state-run enterprises to foreign investment.

As Bremer weighed in on the financial cost of the effort in Iraq, the human toll rose. Two U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday.

One soldier died in a roadside bombing in Fallujah in which three others were injured. The second death came in an attack on a military convoy in Baghdad. In another incident, a third soldier died from what was dubbed a non-hostile gunshot wound.

The deaths brought to 281 the number of soldiers killed since the war began. Since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1, 143 U.S. soldiers have died.

The president told a veteran's group Tuesday that despite mounting U.S. casualties, the United States will not relent in its war against terrorism. Mr. Bush said Iraq has become a "point of testing" in the war on terror, and vowed, "There will be no retreat."

In other developments:

  • International relief agency Oxfam said Wednesday that it had pulled its foreign staff out of Iraq because the security level in the country had deteriorated to the point where the group could no longer operate.

  • A military court hearing began for four U.S. soldiers accused of abusing prisoners of war at a camp in southern Iraq. The four Army reservists from the 320th Military Police Battalion are accused of punching and kicking several Iraqis. The soldiers claim they acted in self-defense.

  • Administration officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, began suggesting that some of those attacking U.S. troops in postwar Iraq were from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia denied that, and pressed U.S. forces to better guard the border between Iraq and its kingdom.

  • The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding prosecution of anyone attacking U.N. and other humanitarian workers after the United States compromised following last week's bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Iraq. The resolution had languished since April due to U.S. opposition to a reference to the International Criminal Court, which the Bush administration opposes. The reference to the court was dropped.

  • Britain's defense secretary Geoff Hoon is defending an intelligence dossier that claimed Iraq could arm WMDs in 45 minutes, reports CBS News Correspondent Steve Holt. Hoon told an inquiry into the death of a British weapons expert who reportedly doubted that claim that the intelligence behind it was sound.

  • U.S. forces launched a series of raids to hunt down bandits, gangsters and Saddam Hussein loyalists, capturing at least 24, on a day when the number of American troops killed in postwar Iraq surpassed the toll of those killed in major combat.

    The U.S. military's "Operation Ivy Needle," which consists of "surgical strikes on remote areas," was designed to neutralize paramilitary forces, Saddam loyalists, Fedayeen Saddam militia and other subversive elements, said military spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle.

    U.S. soldiers on Tuesday swept up two dozen suspected Iraqi criminals near Baqouba, 42 miles north of Baghdad.

    Hundreds of troops, backed by helicopters, tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles chased a convicted murderer and gangster named Lateef Hamed al-Kubaishat, said U.S. commander Col. David Hogg.

    Lateef escaped capture, but the military said it caught seven men it was seeking and seized arms.

    A later raid on the home of a gunrunner netted three men. The three suspects tried to flee, with one firing a heavy machine gun, but he was wounded in the leg.

    In other raids, U.S. troops detained 22 people in northern and eastern Iraq, Aberle said. Of those, two had been targeted as ex-regime loyalists, five were suspected of planning attacks against coalition forces, and 13 others were arrested for trying to loot the former Iraqi military's ammunition dumps around Tikrit.

    One of the soldiers killed Tuesday was riding in a support convoy hit by a bomb in the town of Hamariyah, 16 miles northwest of Baghdad, the military announced. Two other soldiers were wounded in that attack.

    The other U.S. fatality was a soldier who was struck by an Iraqi motorist while changing a flat in a convoy from Tikrit to a forward base, the military said.

    An Iraqi was killed and two U.S. soldiers were wounded after a roadside bomb was detonated outside Baqouba, 42 miles north of Baghdad, the 4th Infantry's Maj. Paul Owen said.

    U.S. troops killed one Iraqi near Tikrit Wednesday, 120 miles north of Baghdad, after three men shot at their patrol. The patrol returned fire. There were no U.S. casualties, Aberle said.

    A U.S. Army logistics convoy reported encountering a man pushing a child, who appeared to have a bomb strapped to its body, toward them near Tuz Kharmato, 110 miles north of Baghdad, Aberle said. The convoy made a detour to avoid the child and possible explosion, Aberle said, adding she had no further details.

    Two Iraqi policemen and three civilians were killed in a shootout with criminals in central Baghdad, a police official at that scene told an Associated Press television crew.
    • Joel Roberts

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