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NYTimes.com Article: Iraqi Leaders to Press Congress for Control Over Rebuilding
by threehegemons
22 September 2003 16:55 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by threehegemons@aol.com.

Sounds like even the Iraqis hand picked by the US are closer to Chirac than 


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Iraqi Leaders to Press Congress for Control Over Rebuilding

September 22, 2003


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 21 - In a 6,000-mile end run around
American and British occupation authorities, leaders from
the Iraqi Governing Council say they will go to Congress
this week to argue that American taxpayers could save
billions of dollars on Iraq's reconstruction by granting
sovereignty more rapidly to the council, the 25-member
interim government here. 

In interviews, the Iraqi leaders said they planned to tell
Congress about how the staff of L. Paul Bremer III, the
American occupation administrator, sends its laundry to
Kuwait, how it costs $20,000 a day to feed the Americans at
Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, how American contractors charge
large premiums for working in Iraq and how, across the
board, the overhead from supporting and protecting the
large American and British presence here is less efficient
than granting direct aid to Iraqi ministries that operate
at a fraction of the cost. 

"The Americans are spending money here to secure themselves
at a rate that is two to three times what they are spending
to secure the Iraqi people," said Ahmad al-Barak, a human
rights lawyer and a member of the council. "It would be
better for us if we would be in charge of how to spend this
money and, of course, they could monitor how it is spent." 

He estimated that in some cases the savings could be a
factor of 10. "Where they spend $1 billion, we would spend
$100 million," he said. 

In the spirit of demonstrating such savings, the Governing
Council this month canceled the $5,000-a-day contract that
Mr. Bremer had arranged to feed the 25-member body and its
staff and found a cheaper supplier. Mr. Barak said he did
not know the cost of the new contract. 

President Bush has asked Congress for $87 billion to
finance military and reconstruction operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan in the coming year. Of that amount $20.3
billion is dedicated to Iraq's reconstruction. 

The council's maneuver to bypass Mr. Bremer, who has flown
back to Washington for meetings this week, seemed bound to
irritate and embarrass him. Council members said Mr. Bremer
was not told in advance of the council's plans to send
representatives to Washington. 

Mr. Bremer has said the council is not yet ready to take on
more governing responsibilities. He was unavailable for
comment tonight, but his spokesman here, Nabeel Khoury,
said Mr. Bremer would be answering questions in Washington
"about what we have been doing with the money we have" and
would be explaining how the occupation authority would
spend the $20.3 billion the White House has requested. 

The council's end run reflects a political struggle between
occupiers and the occupied that Iraqi officials say is
inevitable and, so far, has not undermined the otherwise
close working relationship that the council maintains with
Mr. Bremer and his staff. But the good will is wearing thin
as the interim Iraqi leaders, most of them from the
opposition groups that helped persuade the Bush
administration to topple Saddam Hussein, become
increasingly frustrated with the deteriorating security in
the country and the impatient expectations of Iraqis to see
some fruits of what the United States calls their

"To proceed, we need a new political consensus among the
United States, the coalition and the Governing Council
itself," said Iyad Alawi, a council member who will take
over the rotating presidency of the governing body next

For that reason, he said, the delegation is being sent to
Washington to seek support in Congress for a more rapid
transfer of sovereignty, budget resources and security
responsibilities to Iraqis. 

Mr. Alawi was one of the five former opposition leaders who
met privately in northern Iraq last week to formulate a
proposal that would call for American troops to return
gradually to their bases in Iraq and turn over the
day-to-day policing of the country to a national Iraqi
security force under the Ministry of Interior. The force
would be drawn from the militia forces, but also from local
tribes and police forces tailored to the security
requirements of each part of the country, according to
officials who attended the meeting. 

One member of the delegation headed to Washington, Ahmad
Chalabi, this month's president of the council, said the
group would press Congress to support a proposed United
Nations mandate that would grant sovereignty to the current
interim government before a new Iraqi constitution is
written and before national elections are held. 

"We don't want to antagonize the United States in any way,
shape or form," Mr. Chalabi said before he departed this
weekend. But at the same time, he said, the daily attacks
on American troops, accidental shootings of Iraqis and an
overall sense of instability threatens to undermine
American support for a long-term commitment to the
emergence of a democratic state in Iraq. 

"If we get sovereignty, the first thing we will do is ask
the Americans to stay," he said. 

Also headed to Washington was Adnan Pachachi, who had
unsuccessfully sought to persuade Secretary of State Colin
L. Powell during a meeting in Geneva this month to endorse
the council's bid for a new United Nations resolution
ending the occupation and turning over sovereignty in the
next few months. 

Mr. Pachachi then took his draft elsewhere in Europe, where
he found greater support among the French and Germans, who
opposed the American invasion of Iraq. Though Bush
administration officials were said by Iraqi leaders to
resent their lobbying efforts, the Iraqis point out that
President Jacques Chirac of France has modified his earlier
proposal to turn over power in a matter of weeks -
something Mr. Powell dismissed as unworkable - to a matter
of months. 

Missing from the delegation to Washington will be Akila
al-Hashemi, who is recovering from a gunshot wound suffered
in an assassination attempt on Saturday. 



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