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U.S. Dismisses Saddam's Troops

Iraq's military and the security organizations that supported Saddam Hussein's regime have been dissolved, and a new defense force "representative of all Iraqis" will be set up to replace them, the U.S. civil administrator announced Friday.

The move was the latest in a series of steps designed to eliminate vestiges of Saddam's regime from postwar Iraq.

"The Coalition Provisional Authority plans to create, in the near future, a New Iraqi Corps. This is the first step in forming a national self-defense capability for a free Iraq," said the statement released by L. Paul Bremer, the administration's top official.

"Under civilian control, that corps will be professional, nonpolitical, militarily effective, and representative of all Iraqis," it said.

The statement did not elaborate on when the new defense force would be set up. But U.S. officials have in the past indicated it would include members of the army, navy and air force who were not compromised by their association to the banned Baath Party and who were not involved in criminal acts.

In other developments:

  • U.S. defense officials said American troops at a checkpoint near the Syrian border confiscated what they believe may be gold bars worth up to $500 million. The bars were to be tested to determine authenticity.
  • Bremer visited a mass grave believed to contain the remains of thousands of Saddam's victims and said those responsible for the killings would be hunted down. Local officials say the remains of at least 3,000 people have been uncovered from the grave. Most appear to have been killed after a 1991 Shiite revolt against Saddam.
  • Preliminary studies on civilian deaths in the U.S.-led war are estimating that between 5,000 and 10,000 civilians may have died — more than the 3,500 believed killed in the 1991 war, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
  • The CIA and other intelligence agencies are doing a postwar review of their accuracy on Iraq. A senior intelligence source says the self-evaluation will focus on what the agencies did, what they got right and what they got wrong.
  • Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, said he was starting to suspect Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and that his teams remain ready to help in the country if required, a newspaper reported Friday.
  • The U.N. Security Council voted 14-0 Thursday to end trade and oil sanctions and empower the United States and Britain to govern the country until an internationally recognized government is established. As a result, nearly $1 billion worth of priority humanitarian supplies can be shipped to Iraq by June 3.
  • One of the first results of the resolution's adoption is likely to be the resumption of oil exports, which were halted just before the war. British ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said transporting oil for export could begin "in the next few days."
  • A Royal Jordanian airlines flight carrying relief supplies flew to the Iraqi capital — the first such flight since the U.S.-led war began March 20th.
  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has confirmed that General Tommy Franks intends to retire this summer. Rumsfeld issued a brief statement after word spread about the four-star general's intentions to return to private life.

    Under the new U.S. orders, the Ministry of Defense, the Republican Guard and "other specified security institutions which constituted and supported the most repressive activities of Saddam Hussein's regime," also have been disbanded.

    Founded in 1980, the Republican Guard — a force tens of thousands strong that had a separate command structure from the rest of the army — had the best equipment, the best training and the best pay. This was meant to ensure the elite corps would remain loyal and defend Saddam in an emergency. Its commanders were closely watched by intelligence agents who reported to Saddam's son Qusai.

    In contrast, Iraq's army was seen as demoralized and poorly equipped, battered by the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the first Gulf War and more than a decade of U.N. trade sanctions imposed because of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

    Friday's order also ended conscription, turned the property of the dissolved entities over to the new administration and dismissed all employees of the armed forces, Republican Guard and the Defense Ministry.

    It also abolished the Information Ministry, which tightly controlled Iraq's media and the work of foreign journalists.

    The announcement follows the administration's May 16 decree abolishing Saddam's Baath Party and ordering the dismissal of party officials from the civil service.

    USAID policies in Iraq came under scrutiny in Washington on Thursday, when members of Congress pressed for a public explanation of why Iraq reconstruction contracts were awarded by federal agencies without full competition.

    The questioning was prompted by policies of USAID, which allowed only a small number of invited firms to bid for rebuilding and awarded the main contract to Bechtel National, part of the Bechtel Corp., which has had several prominent Republicans as top executives.

    Defense officials also faced lawmakers critical of the Pentagon's strategy for a postwar Iraq.

    Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz Thursday told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that U.S. plans cannot be judged "against a standard of unachievable perfection."

    He also warned that Iraq "will seem even messier" while its political problems are being worked out.

    "I am concerned that the administration's initial stabilization and reconstruction efforts have been inadequate," said committee chairman Richard Lugar. "The planning for peace was much less developed than the planning for war."

    Wolfowitz highlighted potential problems that were averted and progress that has been made. Few oil wells were destroyed, and there is no food, health or refugee crisis, he said. Electric service is better than in the past 12 years, primary schools have reopened and the water system is at 60 percent of prewar levels, he said.

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