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Monday, May 24, 2004 - Page updated at 06:37 P.M.
Bush plans Iraq speech on Monday
BATON ROUGE, La. President Bush will outline a "clear strategy" for Iraq in a major speech Monday night, White House aides said yesterday, even as top U.S. generals warned Congress that Bush's plan to transfer power to Iraqis by June 30 is likely to spawn more violence.
Bush's speech Monday at 5 p.m. PDT at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., is designed to reassure Americans about the war and the handoff of partial sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30. Bad news from Iraq has helped drive Bush's popularity and job-approval ratings to the lowest point in his presidency and threatens his bid for re-election.
But even as the White House announced the speech, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, told the House Armed Services Committee that the June 30 turnover is likely to usher in a period of more turmoil, comments echoed by Army chief of staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush will speak in detail Monday night about the handoff of power to a yet-to-be-identified Iraqi government and also about infrastructure, security and international and diplomatic efforts to improve the situation.
As of yesterday, administration officials hadn't asked the networks to carry the speech live, but the White House is clearly hoping for a major television audience.
Car bomb kills at least 5 outside Iraqi official's home
BAGHDAD, Iraq A car bomb exploded outside the home of a senior Iraqi security official today, killing at least five people and destroying several vehicles on an east Baghdad street, police said.
The blast did not seriously hurt Abdul-Jabbar Youssef al-Sheikhli, one of three deputy interior ministers and a member of the Shiite Muslim Dawa party, a ministry official said.
Police were uncertain whether the bomb was detonated by a suicide attacker.
U.S.-led coalition questions 2
in connection with beheading
Based on tips from Iraqis, four men were arrested in a Baghdad raid earlier this week and two were quickly released, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, spokesman for U.S. military operations in Iraq. He refused to elaborate, saying only that the men were believed to have "knowledge, perhaps some culpability" in the death of 26-year-old Nicholas Berg.
Berg disappeared after checking out of a Baghdad hotel April 10. A videotape of his beheading by Islamic militants surfaced May 11 on a Web site linked to al-Qaida.
Sergeant who opposes war found guilty of desertion
FORT STEWART, Ga. In a defeat for opponents of the war in Iraq, a military court-martial jury found Florida National Guard Sgt. Camilo Mejia guilty of desertion yesterday and sentenced him to a year's confinement.
The eight-member jury of seven men and a woman, most of whom have served in Iraq, reached the verdict after just under two hours of deliberations.
Then, after hearing testimony about Mejia's character yesterday afternoon, the same jury gave him the maximum sentence: a year at hard labor at a military detention facility, demotion, a pay cut and a bad-conduct discharge.
The military judge, Col. Gary Smith, would not let Mejia turn the court-martial into a trial on the conduct of the war, refusing to allow witnesses on international law or to hear evidence of alleged mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners or detainees.
Mejia has filed for conscientious-objector status. He criticized the war as being more about oil than humanity and violates international law. He refused to return to his outfit after coming home to the United States on leave last year.
Powell says U.S. need for oil influenced actions in Iraq
Secretary of State Colin Powell described the U.S. need for oil as a motivating factor in the Bush administration's decision to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and seek his replacement by a democratic government.
Powell, in an interview with Laura Ingraham on the Westwood One Radio Network, said the U.S. needs good relations with countries that can help it meet its energy demands.
"We need stable regimes in this part of the world who will be partners and friends of ours, because the fact of the matter is we do rely on imported oil to fuel our economy and to fuel our nation," Powell said in the interview.
"In Iraq, we had an unstable regime, a dictatorial regime that was ready to be pushed aside," he said.
"That's not sending our troops overseas for oil," Powell said. "That's sending our troops overseas to put in place a democratic nation rested on a foundation of openness and human rights that will be a friend and partner of the United States."
An Army captain accused of taking nude photographs of female soldiers as they showered while on duty at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison resigned to avoid a court-martial. Leo Merck, 32, who had commanded the Pittsburg, Calif.-based 870th Military Police Company since early 2002, finalized a deal with the Army on Wednesday, according to an Army spokesman at Fort Lewis, Wash., where the 870th Company was discharged after leaving Iraq last month. ... The last Spanish troops left Iraq yesterday, fulfilling an election pledge by new Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who opposed the Iraq war and branded the occupation "a fiasco." The final group of the Spanish troops, who once numbered 1,400, crossed into Kuwait and would fly to Spain by Monday.
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