Bremer, Iraq Council Meet; Soldier Killed
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Chief U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer on Saturday presented Iraq’s Governing Council with Washington’s new policy proposals aimed at speeding up Iraq’s sovereignty, officials said.
Bremer met with the council as the military reported that a soldier was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb, becoming the 400th U.S. serviceman to die since the conflict began in March.
Details of Bremer’s meeting with the Governing Council were not immediately available. Senior administration officials told The Associated Press that the proposed changes include holding elections in the first half of next year and forming a new government before a constitution is written, thus effectively granting Iraq sovereignty by the middle of 2004.
Previously, the Bush administration has insisted that a new charter be written and adopted before general elections are held, a process that was likely to last at least another year.
Bremer met in Baghdad Friday with Jalal Talabani, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council, to discuss Washington’s new policy proposals regarding a return of Iraqi sovereignty, said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the 24-seat body.
Othman told the AP that the Governing Council will study the proposals but may not agree with the details. ``For our part, we have our own ideas,″ he said. ``We will listen to Bremer and he will listen to us.″
Winning speedy agreement on a new political course may take time because of conflicting interests among Iraq’s diverse groups.
The changes include a proposal to accelerate Iraqi self-rule to as early as June, according to a report in The New York Times. The ideas appeared aimed at defusing growing attacks against coalition forces, which the military said continued to claim more victims.
The U.S. soldier who was killed Saturday was traveling in a two-vehicle patrol. Two other soldiers were wounded in the blast, a military spokesman said.
On Friday, a 1st Armored Division soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in central Baghdad, the military said. Two other soldiers were wounded.
The U.S. policy switch appeared aimed at defusing growing attacks against coalition forces. The insurgency, initially centered in the so-called Sunni Triangle of central Iraq, now appears to be spreading to the north and south of the country.
ABC News reported that Washington’s new proposals also call for provincial leaders to meet in the spring to choose delegates for an assembly, which would elect a transitional government by next summer. The United States would hand over power to this body.
The U.S. administration agreed to a plan by the Iraqi leadership to speed up the transfer of power, and give Iraqis control over their own wealth and political affairs while maintaining the presence of coalition forces, the New York Times said.
In the northern city of Mosul, Khalid Victor, a translator working for the municipal administration and his son were killed Saturday when gunmen opened fire at their car, officials said.
``It’s obvious that they are targeting all Iraqis working with Americans,″ said a city official who declined to give his name.
Faced with a mounting security crisis, U.S. troops stepped up their campaign against Iraqi insurgents, going after them with massive firepower before they have a chance to strike.
In Baghdad Friday, distant explosions could be heard after sundown in the central part of the city, and the 1st Armored Division said they were part of ``pre-emptive mortar fire″ against insurgent positions.
A division spokesman said aircraft were launched to carry out some of the strikes. He would not specify the targets.