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Volunteers to restore order in Iraq cities

US commanders have turned to volunteers, including police officers of the ousted regime, to restore order in Iraq's ransacked cities.

world Updated: Apr 13, 2003 12:45 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

US commanders turned to volunteers, including police officers of the ousted regime, to restore order in Iraq's ransacked cities on Sunday, as the world's richest countries patched up deep divisions over the war to call for a new UN Security Council resolution on rebuilding Iraq.

The US move had little immediate effect on the ground, where ethnic tensions compounded lawlessness and looting as a source of insecurity.

By nightfall of day 24 of the war, US, British and Australian troops, with the help of Kurdish fighters, controlled all major cities, except president Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

In Baghdad, a police cruiser ventured onto the streets for the first time since US troops entered the city, following a US appeal for volunteers to help quell widespread looting.

But most shops remained shuttered, four days after the capital was captured by US-led forces.

Armed shopkeepers stood guard outside to ward off looters who have stripped government buildings, hotels and even hospitals of vital supplies and equipment.

Residents called on US forces to crack down on the looters and warned that Iraqis could turn against the soldiers if they do not.

Chaos "isn't freedom", said jeweller Safar Hussein Hazem.

"If the Americans don't do anything in the coming weeks, we'll drive them out," said Hassan Fahed.

US forces secured the city's main water supply station, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva.

Antonella Notari also said the capital's Medical City hospital complex was partly under the control of US soldiers.

"These are very concrete, very useful measures, but the entire infrastructure serving the civilian population also has to be secured," she said.

Dozens of Iraqis reported to the Palestine Hotel where US officers and media are housed, in response to the US call for qualified people to come forward.

A group of police officers who had served under Saddam's regime were among the volunteers.

"It was time to get back to work," said Captain Mohammad Abdul Karim al-Asaidi. "We're working for the people, not for a government."

But a similar move to co-opt the existing police force in the main northern city of Mosul sparked an angry reaction from Kurdish residents, who had greeted the collapse of Saddam's regime with jubilation.

"All of these officers are traitors, supporters of Saddam and the Baath party," one protestor screamed, accusing a police officer recruited by the Americans of murdering two of his brothers.

Since Kurdish rebel fighters entered Mosul on Friday, the city of one and a half million people has been rocked by ethnic violence between the Kurds and Arab residents, which hospital sources say have killed as many as 20 people.

Brigadier General Vincent Brooks would not rule out commanders imposing curfews in some areas as US troops moved to restore order.

"Whether one is imposed or not is a tactical decision," that could vary from city to city, Brooks told reporters at US Central Command in Qatar.

In the northern oil capital of Kirkuk, US troops were deployed outside the governor's office, in a sign they were steadily taking over control of the city from Kurdish forces as demanded by neighbouring Turkey.

General "Mam" Rostam, a top commander of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said the city was quieter after it too was looted following its fall to his fighters on Thursday.

Turkey has insisted that Kurdish fighters quit both Kirkuk and Mosul, fearful that control of the two cities could make a breakaway state economically viable and stoke fresh disturbances among its own much larger Kurdish minority.

But, for the time being at least, there was "no need for the Turkish army to enter northern Iraq," said Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

As US forces prepared to move on Saddam's last redoubt in Tikrit, a US Marine was killed at a checkpoint outside a Baghdad in an attack blamed on a volunteer fighter from neighbouring Syria.

The gunman, who was shot dead by US troops, carried a Syrian identity card, US Central Command said, adding that an investigation was under way.

A total of 110 US troops have been killed in Iraq war so far, according to a Pentagon toll. It was not immediately clear if the figure included the dead marine.

Saddam's top weapons advisor surrendered to US troops in Baghdad saying he was happy to be questioned because the ousted regime had none of the banned weapons the United States used as a justification for the war.

"I tell you for history: We have nothing," General Amer al-Saadi told German ZDF public television.

Both Britain and the United States announced they were beginning to scale back their military presence in the Gulf now that the strike phase of the war was over.

But anti-war demonstrations continued around the world with as many as half a million joining the largest in Rome.

In Washington, the leaders of the world's richest countries papered over their deep divisions over the US-led war to allay fears the rifts could undermine efforts to repair Iraq's ravaged economy.

In a move British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown hailed as an "enormously positive step forward", G7 leaders agreed that a new UN Security Council resolution was necessary, if only to release frozen Iraqi assets and lift the crippling embargo imposed on the Saddam regime.

They also agreed that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund should play a central role in Iraq's reconstruction.

But they reached no consensus on forgiveness of Iraq's massive foreign debt, which runs to an estimated $127 billion.

Iraq's three largest creditors - France, Germany and Russia - have been the biggest critics of the US-led war.

First Published: Apr 13, 2003 12:14 IST