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U.S. Tinkers With Postwar Plan

A U.S. soldier keeps guard as former Iraqi soldiers and army officers demand payment of their wages for the past three months in Baghdad, Iraq, June 2, 2003.
AP
U.S. plans for postwar Iraq have changed again, according to published reports and contrary to what many Iraqis expected.

A national conference scheduled for July to pick members of an interim government has been canceled. The conference was initially supposed to occur in May or June but was recently pushed back.

Now, the planned meeting of 300 delegates is off altogether.

Instead, the U.S. will name 25 to 30 Iraqis to a council by the middle of next month that will nominate ministers for different government departments. The U.S. administration may over time turn power over to these ministers.

Meanwhile, a separate committee will draft a constitution to pave the way for elections. Reports in the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post did not point to any timetable for voting.

The Times reports U.S. officials made the move in order to prevent Iraqi exile groups from dominating a national conference. There have been worries about how representative the exile groups are of average Iraqis who've lived in the country in recent years.

In other developments:

  • Two Iraqi men were killed and two U.S. servicemen injured in an exchange of gunfire at a mosque in Baghdad, witnesses and soldiers said. But the U.S. Central Command said Monday it could not confirm that the incident occurred or that there had been any casualties. Dozens of U.S. troops have been killed and injured in a series of hit-and-run attacks that have become common since the end of major combat last month.
  • Military officials say an Army base came under mortar fire Sunday on the outskirts of Baghdad, and one U.S. soldier was slightly injured. American soldiers have come under increasing fire in Iraq in the past week, and at least five have been killed.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency says a team of U.N. nuclear safety experts will leave Wednesday for Iraq and should be in Baghdad by the end of the week. According to U.S. and U.N. officials, the IAEA team will only be allowed to inspect Tuwaitha, 30 miles southeast of Baghdad, and not any of the other looted nuclear sites the agency had been safeguarding for more than a decade.
  • Some former Iraqi military workers have taken to the streets of Baghdad to demand the U.S. pay compensation for their lost jobs.
  • At a summit of wealthy nations Monday, President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac tried to reconcile their personal feud over the Iraq war Monday, saying they both support efforts for reconstruction of the country.
  • The Pentagon is sending a new group of weapons hunters to Iraq to expand the search for banned weapons, beginning Monday.

    Two Senate committees want to investigate whether U.S. intelligence accurately pointed to banned weapons in Iraq as claimed by the Bush administration in going to war, senators said Sunday.

    More than 11 weeks have passed without conclusive evidence of an Iraqi program to develop weapons of mass destruction, senators said, and it's time to investigate whether intelligence reports saying so were correct.

    An investigation doesn't mean senators think that something was done incorrectly, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on CNN.

    "By the fact that we're just investigating it, should not in any way indicate that we're putting any credibility doubt against" the CIA or the Bush administration, Warner said.

    He said his committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee might look jointly into the situation.

    "I think it cannot go uninvestigated, because big nations have two things: they have their word and they have their credibility," Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CBS News' Face the Nation.

    "Our credibility is going to be called into question in other parts of the world" if nothing is found, he said.

    One member of the Intelligence panel, Sen. Bob Graham, running for the Democratic presidential nomination from Florida, went further than other senators in declaring on CNN that the government might have willfully distributed erroneous information on Iraq's arsenal.

    "If we don't find these weapons of mass destruction, it will represent a serious intelligence failure or the manipulation of that intelligence to keep the American people in the dark," Graham said.

    The Bush administration's main argument for the Iraq invasion was that deposed President Saddam Hussein held chemical and biological weapons and possibly was developing nuclear weapons. All were banned to Iraq under sanctions imposed by the United Nations after in August 1990 after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait and by subsequent U.N. resolutions.

    Mr. Bush faced the question again Sunday in a news conference at St. Petersburg, Russia, as he ended an official visit. He seemed to have told a Polish television reporter Thursday that U.S. searchers had found weapons in the form of two mobile laboratories that the Americans say were to manufacture biological weapons.

    "We've discovered weapons systems, biological labs, that Iraq denied she had, and labs that were prohibited under the U.N. resolutions," Mr. Bush said.

    CIA Director George Tenet defended his agency's work. "The integrity of our process was maintained throughout, and any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong," he said Friday.

    Asked about the quality of intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the weapons were there. "There's no doubt in my mind that the evidence was overwhelming," he said.
    British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says evidence that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction is "overwhelming."

    But a senior Russian diplomat is calling on the United States to produce any evidence it has. Russia's deputy foreign minister Yuri Fedotov says it's time to close the issue.