| General Hussam Mohammad Amin
Baghdad, April 27 (Reuters): US forces said today they had nabbed another wanted Iraqi general, as American administrators tried to curb mounting resentment among ordinary Iraqis by restoring vital services to battered Baghdad.
The US held General Hussam Mohammad Amin, a key figure in negotiations with UN inspectors who hunted banned Iraqi weapons before the war that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Amin, number 49 on a US list of 55 most-wanted members of Saddam’s administration, is the 13th known to be in custody. A US military source said he was caught west of Baghdad on Saturday but declined to reveal who captured him.
As disputes dragged on over who runs the capital and the rest of the country after Saddam’s overthrow, the retired American general charged with rebuilding Iraq pledged to help forge an honest government.
Stepping up his efforts to win over Iraqis increasingly suspicious of US intentions, Jay Garner said in a broadcast: “I am here to help you rebuild your country and to turn your government into one which serves you.” A senior aide said Garner would meet 300-400 prominent Iraqis in Baghdad tomorrow to identify potential national leaders and discuss forming a new government.
Barbara Bodine, Garner’s coordinator for central Iraq, said pro-American Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, had been invited. So had the country’s main Shia group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). A spokesman for SCIRI, which is based in Tehran, said the group would probably attend the meeting on condition that Washington stood aside to allow Iraqis to choose their own interim government.
The participation of SCIRI would be a boost for the US, which hopes to make tomorrow’s meeting a broad gathering of religious, ethnic and political forces.
“The Nasiriyah meeting was a very, very first step. I think we’re going to see more of an indigenous representation (at the second meeting),” Bodine told reporters in Baghdad.
However, a representative of the Iran-based Dawa party said it would not attend. Moqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Shia cleric from the southern city of Najaf, also said he would not be there.
“We do realise there is tremendous confusion that needs to be clarified,” Major General Carl Strock, senior engineering adviser in Garner’s team, said yesterday.
Jordan’s King Abdullah urged Washington to expedite formation of a new government to avert possible fragmentation of the war-torn country.
“I would have thought they (US) should have moved faster. The vacuum that is there at the moment is not helping the situation on the ground,” the king told CNN in an interview.
Garner’s problems have been compounded by the failure to repair the damage to Iraq during the war. Even in the heavily-bombed capital, water, sewage and waste collection services have not been restored.
Bodine met two Saddam-era Baghdad deputy mayors today to try to get repair work going. An aide said they discussed the restoration of water, sewage and waste collection services.
In his broadcast, Garner tried to reassure Iraqis that they would determine their own political destiny and that he was not planning to stay long. “I will be here for just a short time. Just to help get things going. This is your country and it’s your future. Your new government will be an open government and an honest government. That is your dream and it is my dream and it’s the dream of the world,” the retired general said.
General Amin, whose arrest was announced today, headed the National Monitoring Directorate, which kept track of Iraq’s armaments. Along with Amer Hammoudi al-Saadi, Saddam’s top scientific adviser, he gave televised news conferences during the UN arms inspections, denying that Baghdad possessed weapons of mass destruction.
The war began after President George W. Bush lost patience with the UN process and said Saddam was duping the world. Saadi surrendered to US forces two weeks ago.
The US says it wants to leave Iraq as soon as possible but does not want it to become a fundamentalist Islamic state like neighbouring Iran, which it has labelled part of an axis of evil along with Saddam’s Iraq and North Korea.