Wed, Nov 26, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Iraqi self-rule timetable submitted

REUTERS , BAGHDAD AND UNITED NATIONS

Followers of radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr pray in front of a US army tank during Islam's biggest festival, Eid al-Fitr, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, in the Baghdad suburb of Al Sadr city yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Iraq's interim authority has submitted a timetable for self-rule and asked the UN Security Council for a new resolution that would end the US-led occupation in June.

Security on the ground in Iraq was intense as troops went on alert for attacks marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan after the grisly weekend killings of US soldiers.

In a letter to the Security Council on Monday, Jalal Talabani, president of the Iraqi Governing Council, promised to establish the "principle of civilian control over the Iraqi armed and security forces."

The US-appointed council said it would select a "provisional legislative body" no later than May 31 next year, which would elect a provisional government by the end of June.

Then "the Coalition Provisional Authority will be dissolved and the occupation ... will end," Talabani's letter said.

The future of their country was on the minds of Iraqis as thousands of Muslims gathered at Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque, one of Sunni Islam's holiest shrines, to pray and participate in the Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.

"I don't think of this as Eid. If the Americans left and there was a new government, with law and order, then every day would be Eid," said Abdel Wadoud Doukhi as he left the mosque.

US military helicopters clattered low overhead, keeping watch following several small explosions earlier in the day and after three US soldiers were killed in two attacks on Sunday.

Since Washington declared major combat in Iraq over on May 1, 185 soldiers have died in action. Washington blames the attacks on insurgents loyal to toppled leader Saddam Hussein.

US President George W. Bush met families of some of the fallen soldiers during a visit to a Colorado army base and vowed to answer the attacks with more force.

"We're sending a clear message: Anyone who seeks to harm our soldiers can know that our great soldiers are hunting for them," Bush told troops and families at Fort Carson on Monday.

On Sunday, witnesses said two US soldiers were shot in the northern city of Mosul, before being dragged from their car in broad daylight and beaten and stabbed by an angry crowd.

Another soldier was killed on Sunday by a roadside bomb near the town of Baquba, 65km north of Baghdad.

The Governing Council's timetable, worked out with US and British officials, had been due on Dec. 15 but arrived three weeks early. It was requested in an October Security Council resolution, which created the multinational force in Iraq.

"... it has become appropriate for the Security Council to adopt a new resolution taking into consideration the new circumstances," Talabani wrote.

The US and Britain are considering a new resolution that would welcome or endorse the accelerated timetable, which Washington had opposed in October.

But faced with the mounting death toll, the Bush administration switched positions this month and decided to speed up a transfer of power.

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