Pentagon sends in successor to Saddam
Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress opposition group and Pentagon's favourite to succeed Saddam Hussein, has been flown into southern Iraq.Updated: Apr 08, 2003 17:44 IST
Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress opposition group and Pentagon's favourite to succeed Saddam Hussein has been flown into southern Iraq by US forces even as Britain is planning to appoint a senior army officer to act as deputy to Jay Garner, the former US general appointed by the Pentagon to head an interim authority to control post-war Iraq.
Chalabi, a Shiite exile, was said to be at the head of a 600-strong force called the Free Iraqi Fighters under the command of Gen Tommy Franks, US commander in the Persian Gulf.
"They will also take part in delivering humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people and maintaining law, order and stability in areas already liberated," the INC said in a statement, according to the Daily Telegraph.
"The number of Free Iraqi Forces in southern and central Iraq is expected to be increased quickly."
Major General Tim Cross, who has been coordinating humanitarian aid to the port city of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq, is likely to be the senior army officer to act as deputy to Garner, The Guardian reported.
Gen Cross is a logistics expert and has previously organised refugee camps in Macedonia and Kosovo.
According to the Guardian report, British ministers are concerned about the Pentagon's ambitions in Iraq and Washington's antipathy towards giving the UN a role.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Monday he expected his organisation to play an important role in rebuilding Iraq. He named Rafeeuddin Ahmed, a Pakistani UN official, as his special adviser on Iraq.
Chalabi has powerful supporters in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office but faces bitter opposition from the US State Department and CIA, which believe he has been out of the country for too long to command support.
One of the State Department's favourites is Adnan Pachachi, 80, a Sunni former Iraqi ambassador to the UN who only recently renounced the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
At the weekend, Chalabi said American forces should remain in Iraq until elections could be held and a democratic government established. "I'm not prepared to give a timeframe. But we expect to have a constitution ratified within two years."
He said "I'm not a candidate for any position in Iraq, and I don't seek an office. I think my role ends with the liberation of the country."
But Chalabi's supporters in the Pentagon and the INC believe he is the kind of secular liberal democrat who would be an ideal leader of a new Iraq and argue that no indigenous potential leader has yet emerged.
First Published: Apr 08, 2003 17:44 IST