The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bremer U-turn on force

Washington, Nov. 5 (Reuters): In a reversal, Iraq’s US administrator, Paul Bremer, has decided to give conditional support to the creation of an Iraqi-led paramilitary force that would help hunt down insurgents, The Washington Post reported today.

The report cited a senior US official in Baghdad who said Bremer no longer has “any objection in principle” to the force, but wants to ensure several conditions are met in screening, training and supervising the participants.

The Iraqi governing council, which Bremer appointed in July, said it wants the force to include former employees of Iraq’s security services and members of political party militias, the report said. The council also wants the force to include a domestic intelligence-gathering unit and to have broad powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects.

The newspaper reported that council leaders contend Iraq’s police departments are too weak — and American soldiers too lacking in local knowledge — to combat guerrillas who are attacking American forces and Iraqis cooperating with the US-led occupation.

“We need a security force that is run by Iraqis, that is more heavily armed than the police and is able to act quickly,” said a senior official of the Iraqi National Congress. The Washington Post said the group's leader, Ahmed Chalabi, has participated in discussions about the new unit.

According to the newspaper, an occupation authority official said Bremer would approve the security force if the members were carefully screened by the interior ministry and by the occupation authority. Bremer also would require that the force be composed of no more than a few thousand members and that command-and-control issues with US forces be resolved, the newspaper said.

Bremer had initially opposed the creation of a paramilitary force under the control of the country's interim interior minister, but has softened his position as attacks, particularly on Iraqi targets, have increased, the report said.

The UN put two of its senior officials on special leave yesterday following a scathing report on safety precautions before the deadly August bombing of UN offices in Baghdad. The two were Tun Myat of Myanmar, the global UN security coordinator, and Ramiro Lopes da Silva of Portugal, once responsible for personnel and security in Iraq.

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