Top US civil administrator for Iraq arrives in Baghdad; Shiite leader welcomed in Najaf
America's new top civil administrator for Iraq has arrived in the country. Paul Bremer arrived in the southern city of Basra Monday morning with the man he is replacing, retired General Jay Garner, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers.
The three men met in Qatar Sunday, then flew to Kuwait for talks. General Myers is accompanying Bremer for talks with regional leaders.
On his arrival, Bremer said he was "delighted to be here" to begin helping set the country on a democratic course. "It's a wonderful challenge to help the Iraqi people basically reclaim their country from a despotic regime," Bremer said in an interview minutes after his plane landed in Basra.
Reacting to reports that Garner would be leaving the country earlier than originally planned, Bremer said: "I certainly intend to work with him in the next weeks here to get a bunch of serious milestones accomplished."
He said he wanted to "pay public tribute to Jay and all of his people for the great job they have done."
Standing beside Bremer, Garner said the reports that he would be leaving early were not true. "What I say we have here is one team, one fight," said Garner. "We'll drive on."
Bremer said former U.S. ambassador Barbara Bodine, who was coordinator for central Iraq, including Baghdad, within the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, was being reassigned to Washington by the State Department, just weeks after her arrival, "for their own reasons."
Later, Bremer has arrived in Baghdad. After arriving in the capital city, Bremer said: "The coalition forces did not come to colonize Iraq. We came to overthrow a despotic regime. That we have done. Now, our job is to turn and help the Iraqi people regain control of their own destiny, to help the Iraqi society rebuild on the basis of individual liberties, respect for the rule of law, and respect for each other."
Meanwhile, the top Iraqi Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim has returned to the Iraqi holy city of Najaf. He was greeted by tens of thousands of people celebrating the end of his 23 years of exile in Iran.
The 66-year-old Hakim, who heads the Supreme Assembly for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, crossed from Iran to Iraq on Saturday and has made a three-day tour through the mainly Shi'ite south of the country. Speaking to a large crowd in Al-Nasiriyah Sunday, al-Hakim denounced the U.S.-led occupation forces in Iraq. He demanded that they pull out and allow the Iraqi people to establish their own government.
In another development, U.S. military officials say the self-proclaimed mayor of Baghdad was released Sunday after two weeks in US custody. The U.S. Central Command said Mohammed Mushin al-Zubaidi has affirmed his support for the coalition and pledged to work within its authority to improve the situation in Iraq. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)