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Bombings Show Iraq a Battlefield in War on Terror

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2003 – Recent bombings in Iraq prove the country is another front in the global war on terrorism, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority said in Baghdad today.

During a news conference, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer said the bombings at the Jordanian mission to Iraq, the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and the Shiia holy site in Najaf show the terrorists will stop at nothing in the pursuit of their aims. "But they shall be stopped; we will stop them. We shall combat them, and we shall overcome them," Bremer said.

The attack in Najaf Aug. 29 killed Shiite leader Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al- Hakim and 95 others. Hundreds of Iraqis were wounded in what Bremer called a heinous act that targeted innocents. Coalition officials are working with Shiia leaders to improve security at Shiia holy sites, and they are helping to provide medical care to those wounded in the attacks.

Bremer said he could not understand why the terrorists targeted one of the holiest sites in Islam. He said he won't know why until the perpetrators are brought to justice.

But the attacks cannot stop the drive toward democratic government, the administrator said. On Sept. 1 the Iraqi Governing Council "took another step on the path to Iraqi sovereignty," Bremer noted. "They appointed new ministers who serve at the pleasure of the Governing Council. They will run ministries. The day-to-day business of government is in their hands."

The ministers form a cabinet and will develop the 2004 budget for their ministries, and will operate the ministries in accordance with the budget and the wishes of the council. "It is our intention to keep authority and responsibility closely linked," Bremer said. "And therefore, as the ministers settle into their positions, the advisers from the coalition will not only yield authority, we will thrust authority on the new ministers.

Bremer said the appointment of ministers is another step toward Iraqi self- government. Last month the council appointed a preparatory committee that will determine how Iraqis will write a new constitution.

The path ahead is "clear and visible," he said. First comes a constitutional convention to write a new permanent constitution for Iraq. Second, Iraqis will vote to accept or reject the constitution. Third, Iraqis will hold elections to produce a fully sovereign Iraqi government. "Working with the Governing Council and the cabinet, I pledged the coalition's close support and assistance as we move together down this path," he said.

Bremer said the coalition will continue its work to train Iraqi police, the Iraqi Civil Defense Force, the new Iraqi army and border guards to combat the security problem in the country. He said the coalition hopes, for example, to have 65,000 to 75,000 fully trained Iraqi police on the beat by the end of 2004. The first battalion of the Iraqi army is being trained now, as are members of the Civil Defense Force.

Bremer said he sees no place in Iraq for private militias. He said the coalition welcomes individual militia members to enlist in the security forces, but sees no role for such groups as the Badr Brigade. Iran supports the Badr Brigades, which were made up of anti-Saddam Iraqis.

The ambassador said the coalition is getting good intelligence from the Iraqi people to help combat the lawlessness that criminal elements and terrorists are attempting to impose.

He pointed out that coalition law enforcement officials, including U.S. FBI representatives, are working with Iraq police to solve the terrorist bombings.

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