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Nine Iraqis expected to lead interim government

U.S. administrator: Multiethnic group will include exiles, locals

An Iraqi youth argues with a U.S. soldier guarding a gas station in Baghdad on Monday.
An Iraqi youth argues with a U.S. soldier guarding a gas station in Baghdad on Monday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A group of as many as nine Iraqis is expected to head Iraq's interim government in the coming months, retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, said Monday.

"By the middle of the month, you'll really see a beginning of a nucleus of an Iraqi government with an Iraqi face on it that is dealing with the coalition," Garner told reporters in Baghdad.

Garner said the group includes Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress; Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord; and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose elder brother heads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

According to a pool reporter accompanying Garner, the retired general also indicated the interim leadership group might be expanded to include a Christian and another Sunni Muslim figure.

Garner did not specify how the multiethnic group would operate.

The group, Garner said, will be chosen by Iraqis and will include locals in addition to returned exiles. Many Iraqis are concerned that certain exiles might act as puppet leaders for the United States or would misunderstand the needs of the country.

All the potential leaders Garner named are former exiles.

When asked why Garner had not named any locals, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Iraqi interim authority will "draw on the experience and dedication of those who have been outside ... as well as the experience and knowledge of those inside. And we think the best solution is a combination of those."

Speaking in Washington, Powell said President Bush's goal "is to allow the Iraqi people to decide how they will be governed."

Garner also indicated that he expects L. Paul Bremer, a high-level diplomat with antiterrorism experience, to arrive in Iraq by next week and take charge of the political process within the U.S. postwar efforts. (Full story)

"He will get more involved in the political process," Garner said. "I'm doing all of it and don't want to do all of it."

During a visit to Basra, Garner announced that Danish diplomat Ole Wohlers Olsen has been named regional coordinator for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) in Iraq's southeast region -- one of four regions established by ORHA. Olsen, 61, has been Danish ambassador to Syria since 1990.

Garner called southern Iraq "the most mistreated part of Iraq," referring to large numbers of Shiite Muslims oppressed under Saddam Hussein's rule.

U.S.: Bioweapons researcher in custody

Pentagon officials announced Monday that a biologist who was one of the top women in Saddam's regime is in U.S. custody.

Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, No. 53 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, negotiated her surrender and was taken into custody Sunday in Baghdad, officials said. Seventeen of the 55 have been taken into custody.

Ammash oversaw youth activities and the trade bureau for Saddam's Baath Party.

The U.S. government said she was also a scientist in Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction programs -- an allegation she has denied. Ammash is reputed to have overseen Iraq's biowarfare research programs. She is married to the former Iraqi oil minister, who is also in custody.

Ammash, the five of hearts in the Pentagon's deck of cards distributed to U.S. troops, is believed to be the first woman from Saddam's government taken into U.S. custody. (Full story)

Other developments

• Garner said Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, the self-proclaimed mayor of Baghdad, had been released after two days in custody on the condition that he not resume any activities asserting authority in the Iraqi capital.

• A U.S. soldier and several Iraqis were wounded in scattered violence around the country during the weekend, the U.S. Central Command said Monday. The soldier with the 3rd Infantry Division is being treated after being shot in the back of the head by an Iraqi civilian at a Baghdad intersection, Central Command said in a written statement. An off-duty Iraqi policeman died in a shootout with U.S. Marines when the troops returned fire on policemen trying to steal a civilian vehicle.

• For the first time since before the start of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the British government has a diplomatic presence in the Iraqi capital, the British Office said Monday. Christopher Segar, who as deputy ambassador to Iraq helped close the embassy in 1991, will be reopening the new office and is the new head of the British Office, according to a statement.

-- CNN correspondents Chris Plante, Barbara Starr, Rym Brahimi and Chris Burns, and CNN Madrid bureau chief Al Goodman, contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.

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