Wednesday, April 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

16,000 Iraqi soldiers surrender
Focus on to set up interim administration

Dubai, April 15
Sporadic fighting was reported across Iraq a day after all of Saddam Hussien’s strongholds fell to the US-led forces, which concentrated on restoring order and putting in place an interim administration today amidst fears that an oppressive regime was being replaced by American occupation.

Zalmay Khalilzad, White House special envoy to Iraq (L), listens to a local Shiite sheikh from Nasiriyah, at the opening of the US-sponsored meeting on post-war Iraq on Tuesday at the Tallil air base in the southern desert of Iraq. The US convened a meeting of Iraqi opposition groups for the first time since Saddam Hussein's fall to spell out its vision of the initial steps for Iraq's future. — Reuters photo

Day 27 in the war zone was relatively quiet. A commander of the Iraqi army’s Anbar sector, extending up to the Syrian border, leading 16,000 troops surrendered to the US forces in the western Iraqi desert.

“It’s a quiet day on the military front. We continue consolidating,” said an official at the US central command headquarters based in Qatar adding that the Iraqi army was no longer an effective fighting force although there were still pockets of resistance.

Order was gradually being restored to Iraqi cities after days of looting with joint patrols doing the rounds of Baghdad. Iraqi people were reported to have led demonstrations and rallies for the restoration of power and water which have been disrupted for over a week.

In Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, which fell yesterday, the coalition forces secured bridges and searched for Iraqi holdouts as looters ransacked government buildings.

Focus shifted to setting up an interim administration with the US convening a meeting of major Iraqi factions opposed to the toppled regime at an airbase outside the southern city of Nasiriya.

Chairing the meeting was US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who played a similar role in setting up a post-Taliban administration in Afghanistan, the BBC reported adding that Jay Garner, the retired American general appointed by the US to run post-war Iraq until an interim authority was in place would also attend the meeting in the historic city of Ur.

“Iraq needs an interim Iraqi government,” said Abdul Aziz Hakim, a leader of Muslim group calling for unity among various factions.

“Iraq needs an interim Iraqi Government,” said Abdul Aziz Hakim, a leader of the Muslim group said.

Also, Ahmed Chalabi, the man most tipped as heading the interim administration, was not attending the meeting and was sending a representative to the meet, for which there was no official list.

Resentment over American intervention turned tragic in Mosul, where at least 10 persons were killed as US troops opened fire to control a mob protesting against a pro-US speech by a new local governor.

Witnesses said the US troops had fired into a crowd which was becoming increasingly hostile towards the governor. “There are perhaps 10 to 12 dead,” a doctor attending on them said. PTI

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