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U.S. Ready For Long Haul In Iraq

The United States asked Friday to be allowed to run Iraq for at least a year and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there was no way to tell how long U.S. troops would be there.

Exactly a month after U.S. troops took Baghdad, the United States and Britain introduced an eight-page resolution — in which the U.S. and Britain acknowledge for the first time that they are "occupying powers" in Iraq — to the Security Council.

In it, they asked the United Nations to lift sanctions on Iraq and allow oil revenues to pay for reconstruction. Some council members, like Angola and Chile, welcomed the resolution, while Russia and France raised questions.

During a news conference with Gen. Tommy Franks, Rumsfeld referred to the authorization timeline as "just a review period" in the overall postwar plan.

"Anyone who thinks they know how long it's going to take is fooling themselves," Rumsfeld said. "It's not knowable."

Some 135,000 U.S. troops are still in Iraq.

In other developments:

  • Three U.S. soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed into the Tigis River in northern Iraq. The incident, which also injured a fourth soldier, was reportedly an accident.
  • Haliburton, under scrutiny for its no-bid win of a contract to handle oil fires, has been paid $90 million under a lesser-known logistics contract, the Los Angeles Times reported.
  • Amnesty International said its delegates had found a mass grave containing 40 bodies in southern Iraq.
  • U.S. officials tell The Washington Post that the postwar operation has run into significant problems, including lacking the troops to control crime and encountering delays in repairing utilities. "The planning was ragged," said one official "and the execution was worse."
  • Up to 90,000 Palestinian refugees could be forced from their homes in Iraq in the wake of Saddam Hussein's ouster, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.
  • Syria and Jordan are under investigation by federal officials as possible conduits for regime leaders who recently sent cash out of Iraq, according to The New York Times.
  • The U.S. military issued an ultimatum to the Mujahedeen Khalq, an armed Iranian opposition group operating in Iraq, insisting that it lay down its arms or face attack. The Mujahedeen has several camps near Baqubah, 45 miles from Baghdad. U.S. troops were prepared for combat but were negotiating with members of the group Friday. It agreed to a ceasefire with the group in April.
  • Defense officials say coalition forces have released some 7,000 prisoners captured during the war in Iraq. About 2,000 are still being held.

    The U.S. resolution would lift economic and trade sanctions imposed on Saddam's government after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and phase out the oil-for-food program instituted in 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with the embargoes. An arms embargo would be maintained.

    Lifting sanctions immediately and phasing out oil-for-food over a four months will take Iraq's oil wealth out of the hands of the United Nations and put it under the control of Washington and London.

    Under the resolution, the money from oil sales would be used for humanitarian goods, reconstruction, civil administration and the continued disarmament of Iraq.

    Russia and France, however, have made their own postwar proposals. Both want U.N. inspectors involved, the oil-for-food program continued and no end to sanctions until a legitimate government is operating. France calls for sanctions to be suspended in the interim.

    The U.S. draft resolution, however, makes no mention of U.N. weapons inspectors. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte reiterated Thursday that the United States is conducting its own searches and sees no role for U.N. inspectors "for the foreseeable future."

    The council faces a June 3 deadline, when the current six-month phase of the U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program expires. The program has been reaching up to 90 percent of Iraq's 24 million people.

    The resolution also would endorse the authority of the United States and Britain to govern Iraq — and it apparently foresees a lengthy stay.

    In a letter to the Council president, the United States for the first time referred to its role in Iraq as an "occupying power," a status governed by the Geneva Conventions that would entail wide-ranging responsibilities to look after the Iraqi people. Until now, Washington has avoided the term, calling itself a "liberating force."

    Under the proposal, the 12-month initial authorization for the U.S. and British "authority" in Iraq would be renewed automatically unless the Security Council decided otherwise.

    Since the United States and Britain both have veto powers, they could block any attempt to get them to leave Iraq — which is likely to be deemed unacceptable by other council members.

    The United States also could face opposition from council members that want the United Nations to have a major role in creating an interim government for Iraq.

    The American draft calls on Annan to appoint a U.N. special coordinator to work with U.S. and British authorities and the Iraqi people to restore and establish "national and local institutions for representative governance."

    The coordinator also would promote the delivery of humanitarian aid, the return of refugees, reconstruction, human rights, legal and judicial reform and rebuilding of an Iraqi police force.

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