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U.S. Commander Asks Iraqis to Help

May 1, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ The commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq urged citizens around the country Thursday to help move the country forward by going back to work, stopping looting and cooperating to build a secure postwar existence.

U.S. Lt. Gen. David McKiernan made the statement through Information Radio, the U.S.-led coalition’s radio station, which is being broadcast across Iraq.

``The coalition is committed to restoring both security and stability _ as well as quickly reconstructing the infrastructure that was destroyed in Iraq,″ McKiernan said in remarks read by an announcer in Arabic.

He also promised that anyone misbehaving would be dealt with.

``I call for putting an end to all acts of sabotage and criminal acts including plundering, looting and attacking coalition forces,″ he said. ``I also expect the support and backup of Iraqis to restore stability in their country.″

Coalition-sponsored radio has been running frequent announcements exhorting Iraqis to accept U.S. forces and work to restore their country. It also has warned any foreign fighters in Iraq to leave or face arrest.

``Coalition forces alone have authority inside Iraq,″ McKiernan said, adding that any checkpoints not supervised by U.S.-led forces are unauthorized.

``Along with you, the Iraqi people, we coalition forces will endeavor to re-establish a livable home that will become an example of success in the international community,″ McKiernan said.

As plans for the new government proceeded, three top opposition leaders met in Baghdad to discuss how they would work together.

Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan began a series of meetings Wednesday night, according to the INC’s London office. It offered no details, citing security, but said the meetings were continuing Thursday.

Many Iraqis are deeply suspicious of Chalabi because he lived outside the country for years and did not suffer alongside them under Saddam.

``He is an American agent and is not qualified to rule Iraq. He is a thief who stole money in Amman,″ said Amer Badei, a 23-year-old grocer.

Chalabi was convicted in absentia for fraud in Jordan but says he was innocent and that the case was instigated by Saddam.

Others don’t rule Chalabi out.

``He is an Iraqi holy warrior. He convinced the world that Saddam was a terrorist,″ said Jawad Abdel-Aziz, a 30-year-old mechanical engineer.