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Postwar administrator arrives



Published: Mon, April 21, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The retired U.S. general appointed as Iraq's postwar administrator arrived in Baghdad today, while two more top members of Saddam Hussein's regime -- including his son-in-law -- were reported captured.

Landing at the Baghdad airport from Kuwait, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner said his priority was to restore basic services such as water and electricity as soon as possible -- a task he said would take intense work.

"What better day in your life can you have than to be able to help somebody else, to help other people, and that is what we intend to do," the 65-year-old Garner said in his first postwar visit to the capital.

With Baghdad slowly returning to normal after days of looting and arson, Marines pulled back Sunday and left the U.S. Army in control of the capital, where coalition-run radio announced an 11 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew.

Tensions appeared to ease between the United States and Syria, with President Bush saying that Syria appears to be heeding warnings against sheltering escaped members of Saddam's regime.

Israel, too, began letting down its guard. Authorities declared that the Iraqi missile threat against their citizens was over and prepared for the departure of 700 U.S. soldiers manning Patriot missile installations south of Tel Aviv.

Two in custody

U.S. Central Command said forces had captured Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Ghafar, Saddam's scientific research minister, on Saturday -- a development that could shed light on Iraq's nuclear program. Abd al-Ghafar was the four of hearts in the U.S. military's most-wanted deck of cards.

Also, Saddam's son-in-law and one of Saddam's bodyguards, both hiding in Syria, were persuaded to leave that country and surrendered to members of the opposition Iraqi National Congress in Baghdad, according to a spokesman for the group, Haider Ahmed.

Jamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti is married to Saddam's youngest daughter, Hala, and was deputy head of Iraq's tribal affairs office. He was the nine of clubs in the deck of cards issued to U.S. military to help them recognize regime members.

He was being questioned by the opposition group and will be turned over to U.S. officials, Ahmed said. Central Command had no information on the reported surrender.

Leaders still at large

Seven of the 55 most-wanted members of Saddam's regime are now in custody, though none from the very top of the list. An eighth figure, Ali Hassan al-Majid -- nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for his use of poison gas against the Kurds -- is believed to have been killed in an airstrike.

As for Saddam himself, Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress exile group, told the BBC today that Saddam is alive in Iraq and moving from place to place. He said the INC is receiving information on Saddam's whereabouts 12 to 24 hours after the fact.

The New York Times reported today that a scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program told a U.S. military team that Iraq destroyed and buried chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began March 20.

Members of MET Alpha, known in full as Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, said the scientist led Americans to material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, the Times said.

Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, said: "Though much work must still be done to validate the information MET Alpha has uncovered, if it proves out it will clearly be one of the major discoveries of this operation, and it may be the major discovery."

The White House had no immediate comment.

Trying to restore order

In Baghdad, stores were open and the streets crowded as residents swept up debris. Trying to head off food shortages, the U.S. military opened a warehouse to U.N. aid shipments and stockpiled flour. Workers labored to restore basic services such as power and water. A convoy of food arrived over the weekend for the malnourished animals at the Baghdad Zoo.

U.S. forces, together with returning Iraqi police, are trying to restore order until the interim authority led by Garner can take over.

Garner heads the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, set up to help rebuild Iraq and eventually turn authority over to the Iraqis. His initial team of about 19 civilian administrators is to grow to about 450 over the next week.

Garner said he aims to get the job done and leave as soon as possible, but declined to give a time frame.

"We will be here as long as it takes. We will leave fairly rapidly," he said.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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