Iraqi Council: No More Troops

A U.S Army soldier gives directions as he secures the area around the Turkish embassy in Baghdad, after a car bomb exploded at the gates of the embassy.
The U.S.-picked government of Iraq declared Wednesday that it does not want peacekeepers from other countries to replace U.S.-led forces, cutting off days of disputes over proposals by Turkey to commit peacekeeping troops.

Members of the Iraqi Governing Council told a news conference at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Malaysia that they are seeking a formula under which Iraq can take charge of its own security as soon as possible.

The United States is seeking troops from other countries to relieve its 130,000 forces in Iraq.

The comments by members of the Iraqi Governing Council appeared aimed at cutting off debate over the issue of sending peacekeepers from neighboring Turkey to Iraq, which the council fears could end up interfering in Iraq's internal affairs.

"We do not prefer troops from neighboring countries to enter Iraq ... in fact we do not prefer forces from other Islamic countries," said Muhsin Abdul Hamid, a council member.

The Governing Council feels that security can be maintained with present coalition troops and the emergence of more Iraqi security forces, Hamid said.

Also Wednesday, council president Iyad Allawi said the group would "definitely" hold elections in 2004.

In other recent developments:

  • A U.S. Army spokeswoman said Tuesday the military had no reports of Saddam Hussein hiding in his hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq, countering a statement by an Army officer the previous day that the ousted Iraqi leader was recently in the region.
  • Japan, which expects a visit from President Bush on Friday, announced Wednesday that it will contribute $1.5 billion next year for the reconstruction of Iraq. The funds would go toward electricity, education, water and health support.

    Japan's total contribution would account for about 10 percent of the reconstruction bill estimated by the World Bank. But it falls short of the $13 billion it chipped in during the 1991 Gulf War.

  • The United States predicted that the Security Council will approve a new Iraq resolution despite its rejection of a key demand by France, Russia and Germany to add a timetable for the transfer of power to Iraqis.

    Council diplomats said the resolution is likely to get at least the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption on Wednesday. But the absence of a timetable diminished the possibility that it will be adopted with broad support from the 15 council members.

  • The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers from the 1st Armored Division were killed in a traffic accident with a civilian car Monday in Baghdad. A 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment soldier was found dead Monday night in the Euphrates River.
  • A senior American defense official says U.S. troops late last week captured Aso Hawleri, believed to be a senior member of the Ansar al-Islam extremist group, in the northern city of Mosul.
  • Allied officials tell The New York Times that many of the weapons used in recent attacks come from Saddam's arms caches, which are 50 percent larger than previously estimated and remain mostly unguarded by U.S. troops.
  • Nearly one-quarter of the 130,000 American troops in Iraq still have not been issued the newest body armor, which has ceramic plates to stop rifle rounds. Delays in funding, production and shipping are blamed.
  • The United States has called for a vote this week on a new resolution that would set a Dec. 15 deadline for Iraq's Governing Council to submit a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections. But there is stiff opposition to the proposal.

    At the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Malaysia Wednesday, Muhsin Abdul Hamid, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, said the council is seeking a formula under which "the Iraqis themselves can be in charge of their security, and we believe we can meet that challenge."

    Tuesday, a car bomb exploded outside Turkey's embassy in Baghdad, escalating tensions over Ankara's offer to send peacekeepers.

    Turkey had been alone at the Islamic summit here in vowing to send troops while Iraq remains under U.S. control. Other Muslim countries said they might be willing, but only with a United Nations Security Council mandate.

    The Iraqis also threw the summit into uncertainty by saying they might seek the postponement of a draft OIC resolution, the focus of much diplomatic effort at the summit, that welcomes the establishment of the Governing Council "as a forward step to the restoration of the government of Iraq" and calls for a "U.N. resolution to set a schedule for the return of power to the Iraqi people."

    The language could conflict with a separate resolution being circulated by the United States at the U.N. Security Council in New York calling for the Governing Council to announce a timetable by Dec. 15 for the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution and the holding of elections, and for an expanded role for the United Nations in Iraq.

    Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said there were "procedural problems" with the way the OIC resolution had been drafted by foreign ministers, and that Iraq's representatives had not had a chance to approve it before it was to be submitted Thursday and Friday to OIC national leaders.

    "Because due to the change in circumstances, especially now at the Security Council — there is a new draft resolution to the council — we want to be patient in order to find out the outcome," Zebari said.

    On Tuesday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Iraq had not been "sidelined" in discussions on the OIC draft resolution.

    The statement had been considered a breakthrough, allowing harsh critics of the U.S.-led invasion — including summit host Malaysia, which has viewed the council as a U.S. puppet and initially refused to invite it — to find common ground with Arab countries that have already recognized the council as a transitional government.

    National leaders of the 57-nation OIC have begun to arrive in Malaysia for their first summit in three years Thursday at a time when many Islamic countries feel the war on terrorism is turning into a war against Muslims.