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U.S. Sets Iraq Deadline

The United States will set a deadline of six months for Iraqi leaders to produce a new constitution for their country, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview published Friday.

"It'll be a difficult deadline to meet, but we've got to get them going," Powell told The New York Times.

Powell claimed Thursday the Bush administration had begun to close ranks with critics at the United Nations on a resolution to govern nation-building in Iraq. "We are seeing some convergence of views," he said after a five-power meeting.

The proposed U.N. resolution probably won't mention a fixed time schedule, Powell told Times editorial writers, but it might well include a constitution, elections and the installation of a new leadership.

The push to erect a new government in Iraq comes amid continuing violence there. A mortar blast tore through a market north of Baghdad, killing nine civilians, and a U.S. soldier was killed in an ambush in the north of the country.

In other developments:

  • Amid the continuing violence, the United Nations announced it was cutting its staff in Baghdad and Iraqis prepared to bury an assassinated member of Iraq's Governing Council.
  • U.S. teams in Iraq have uncovered some signs that a participant in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center may have received help from the government of Saddam Hussein after the bombing, Bush administration officials say. One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said while some evidence has been uncovered, it was too soon to reach any conclusions about Iraq's ties to Abdul Rahman Yasin, who is accused of mixing the chemicals in the bomb used in the 1993 attack.
  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld defended the pace of Iraq's reconstruction, saying it is going faster in some cases than rebuilding in Germany and Japan after World War II. "We are on track," he said. "We've made solid progress." Rumsfeld asserted the United States is not engaged in nation-building in Iraq.
  • The president's $87 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan is spurring worry even within his own party, reports The Washington Post.

    In the days ahead, Powell said, the administration will work on language to modify the proposed resolution, which has been slowed by objections that the United States was not willing to yield sufficient authority to the United Nations.

    Next week, Powell will confer with administration officials about how much the resolution should accommodate the views of nations favoring a quick end to the American occupation and a leading role for the United Nations in Iraq's reconstruction, a U.S. official said.

    Prospects for a prompt resolution are not good, the official said. A tentative target date for approval by the Security Council is before an international conference in Spain on Oct. 24 that is designed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for Iraq, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    The mortar blast occurred about 9 p.m. Thursday at a market in Baqouba, about 30 miles north of Baghdad. Nine civilians died and another 18 were wounded, the Army said. Troops of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division rushed to the scene to help.

    In Baghdad, the U.S. military said one soldier from the 173rd Airborne Brigade was killed and two others were wounded during an ambush in northern Iraq. The incident occurred about 11 p.m. Thursday when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at their vehicle. The names of the victims were withheld pending notification of kin.

    The death raised to 86 the number of U.S. soldiers killed by hostile fire since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq.

    Also Friday, the military announced that a soldier from the 4th Infantry Division died and another was injured in a fire Thursday night in an abandoned building in the Tikrit area. No further details were released.

    Meanwhile, Iraqi leaders prepared to bury Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the 25-member Governing Council, who died Thursday of wounds suffered in an ambush near her home on Sept. 20. A convoy carrying al-Hashimi's body left the capital Friday for the funeral in Najaf, a Shiite holy city 110 miles to the south.

    The current council president, Ahmad Chalabi, blamed her death on Saddam loyalists.

    The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, has warned he would use whatever force necessary to defeat those who attack American soldiers.

    The inability of the U.S.-led coalition to stop the violence was behind the decision Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to order a further reduction of U.N. international staff in Iraq. Annan's order came days after the second bombing outside U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Monday killed an Iraqi policeman and injured 19 others.

    The first bombing, on Aug. 19, killed 22 people at the Baghdad headquarters. At that time, about 300 international staff were in Baghdad and another 300 elsewhere in Iraq, and Annan ordered the number reduced to 42 in Baghdad and 44 in the north.

    U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said he did not know how many of the 86 remaining international staffers would leave for Amman, Jordan, under the latest order. They are to depart within the next two days.

    "This is not an evacuation, just a further downsizing and the security situation in the country remains under constant review," Eckhard said.