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Monday, May 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:56 A.M.

Iraq Notebook
Powell says his assertions were wrong


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U.S. military toll in Iraq hits 778 as 3 more die
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday that what he had called "the most dramatic" element of his Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the United Nations was "inaccurate and discredited."

The presentation, considered a key in convincing allies and the American people that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, claimed the existence of mobile biological-weapons laboratories.

"When I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me," Powell said yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"It turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that, I am disappointed, and I regret it," he said.

A CIA spokesman declined comment.

U.S. reportedly redeploying troops from South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — The United States plans to withdraw an Army brigade — about 4,000 troops from the 2nd Infantry Division — from South Korea and redeploy it to Iraq, the Joong Ang Ilbo newspaper and a Foreign Ministry official said today.

"The United States did not specify the date but only sent word that the deployment would be within weeks," the official said.

The United States has 37,000 troops in South Korea.

Former Saddam general urges support for U.S.

FALLUJAH, Iraq — A former Saddam Hussein-era general appointed by the United States to lead an Iraqi security force in the rebellious Sunni stronghold of Fallujah urged tribal elders and sheiks yesterday to support U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.
 
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"We can make them (U.S. troops) use their rifles against us or we can make them build our country, it's your choice," Mohammed Abdul-Latif told a gathering of more than 40 sheiks, city-council members and imams in an eastern Fallujah suburb.

The monthlong siege of this city of 200,000 people, located 40 miles west of Baghdad, was lifted when top Marine officers announced the creation of the all-Iraqi Fallujah Brigade to patrol the city.

"As President Bush said, they did not come here to occupy our land but to get rid of Saddam," Latif said. "We can help them leave by helping them do their job, or we can make them stay 10 years and more by keeping fighting."

Fighters loyal to al-Sadr drive Italians from base

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Fighters loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr drove Italian forces from a base in the southern city of Nasiriyah yesterday and attacked coalition headquarters there with grenade and mortar fire as tensions in the Shiite region escalated.

The Italian troops evacuated as their base came under repeated attack. Portuguese police were called out to support the Italians, seeing action for the first time since the force of 128 were sent to Nasiriyah in November, a Portuguese duty officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

At least 10 Italians were wounded, one of them critically, said Lt. Col. Giuseppe Perrone, contingent spokesman. He said the Italians relocated to the nearby Tallil air base. Witnesses said two Iraqi fighters were killed and 20 wounded.

A convoy transporting the Italian official in charge of Nasiriyah, Barbara Contini, came under attack as it neared the headquarters of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, Perrone said. Two Italian paramilitary police were wounded.

All but two civilian staff members of the coalition were evacuated from their headquarters in Nasiriyah.

Elsewhere in southern Iraq, assailants in Basra fired a mortar shell that hit a house near a British military base, killing four Iraqi civilians, including 2-year-old twin girls, witnesses said.

Gunmen kill Iraqi civilians who were working with U.S.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Gunmen fired on a minibus and detonated explosives in Baghdad yesterday, killing two Iraqi women and the driver and injuring another woman. Police said the women were working for the Americans but did not specify their jobs.

Early yesterday, a female Iraqi translator working with U.S. troops was killed and another was critically injured when gunmen broke into their houses in Mahmoudiyah.

The civilian killings appeared to be part of a rebel strategy to deter cooperation between Iraqis and the coalition, which plans to hand over limited sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30.

Jordan's king says that Iraq is drawing closer to civil war

WASHINGTON — Iraq is closer to civil war today than it was a year ago, Jordan's King Abdullah said yesterday.

"It's more likely today than it was a year ago," Abdullah said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

An Iraq interim government, scheduled to be in place by the time sovereignty is handed over June 30, should move quickly to help the Iraqi people feel they have a future and prevent a descent into chaos, Abdullah said.

"If we see a disintegration of Iraq, if we see, God forsake, the worst scenario, civil war, then the whole region will be dragged into Iraq," he said.

Jordan will not contribute troops to a multinational peacekeeping force in Iraq, Abdullah said.

U.S. officer will be in charge of Iraqi troops, Powell says

WASHINGTON — The United States expects the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to put its troops under the command of a U.S. "multinational-force commander" after the July 1 establishment of an interim government in Baghdad, Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday.

"You have to have unity of command on a battlefield, and we hope that we will be able to work out arrangements with the Iraqi interim government to bring this to pass," Powell said on "Fox News Sunday."

"We expect that the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the minister of defense and the generals working within the Ministry of Defense will have command and control over their troops," he said.

"But we also expect that ... to make sure there is no confusion as to what we're doing with respect to security, they will put those troops under the direction of the multinational-force commander, who will be an American."

On Saturday, Powell said the United States would withdraw from Iraq if asked by the interim government, but he said yesterday he thought believed such a request was unlikely for "some considerable period of time."

Powell criticizes Arab reaction to beheading of U.S. civilian

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin Powell scolded Arab governments yesterday for not expressing more outrage over the videotaped beheading of U.S. civilian Nick Berg.

Powell, who yesterday apologized for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib prison, said he has made it clear to Arab leaders that systematic torture of prisoners is unacceptable anywhere.

Yet, he said, their denunciation of the killing of Berg fell far short of their attacks on the United States for treatment of Iraqi detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

"When you are outraged at what happened at the prison, you should be equally, doubly outraged at what happened to Mr. Berg," Powell said on "Fox News Sunday."

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