| Paul Bremer, US civil administrator for Iraq, kicks a ball at the Iraqi Police Academy’s Al-Zawraa soccer club in Baghdad on Monday. (AFP)
Baghdad, June 2 (Reuters): Thousands of sacked Iraqi soldiers swarmed angrily around US headquarters in Baghdad today, as squabbling tribal leaders told the Americans they could face war if they did not leave soon.
“The entire Iraqi people is a time bomb that will blow up in the Americans’ face if they don’t end their occupation,” tribal chief Riyadh al-Asadi said after meeting a US official for talks on the future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein. “The Iraqi people did not fight the Americans during the war, only Saddam’s people did. But if the people decide to fight them now, they are in big trouble.”
As tribal leaders met representatives of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), more than 3,000 sacked troops marched on the CPA headquarters in a former presidential palace, vowing violence unless they received compensation. Many said they wanted US and British forces to leave Iraq.
“All of us will become suicide bombers,” said former officer Khairi Jassim. “I will turn my six daughters into bombs to kill the Americans.”
Paul Bremer, the US administrator for Iraq, dissolved Saddam’s armed forces, several security bodies and the defence and information ministries last month, firing 400,000 people. Many protesters said they could no longer feed their families.
The protesters dispersed after they were promised talks tomorrow to try to resolve their grievances. Bremer told a news conference he sympathised with their plight and planned job creation schemes, but would not be swayed by threats.
“We’re not going to be blackmailed into producing (job) programmes because of threats of terrorism,” he said, adding that the demonstration marked the first time in decades that people had dared to protest outside the presidential palace. Responding to mounting calls to leave, Bremer said: “We will stay until the job is done and not a day longer.”
The new UN special representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, arrived in Baghdad to beef up the UN role in rebuilding Iraq. “We have a huge task ahead,” he said.
US officials announced at the weekend that the Iraqi interim administration that will help guide the country until a constitution is approved and democratic elections held would be appointed by the CPA. Previously, it had been expected a national conference would select members of the administration.
Meanwhile, Russia today dismissed US efforts to present its discovery of a mobile laboratory as an example of Iraq’s banned weapons programme, saying only UN scientists could officially certify weapons as illegal.
“The only information we have about weapons in Iraq is concerning this mobile laboratory that could make biological weapons,” Yuri Fedotov, a deputy foreign minister with responsibility for Iraq, told Interfax news agency. “However, even American experts recognise that there were no traces of biological agents in this trailer,” he added.