U.S. administrator: Iraq to be 'beacon' of freedom
Soldier hurt in attack Saturday
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- When Iraq's governing council first meets Sunday, it will be the "latest sign of progress" in making the nation "truly free," said L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq.
In a New York Times opinion article published online Saturday, Bremer said, "Once our work is over, the reward will be great: a free, democratic and independent Iraq that stands not as a threat to its neighbors or the world, but as a beacon of freedom and justice."
The governing council will comprise numerous political, ethnic and religious groups. Bremer said it "represents all the strands from Iraq's complicated social structure."
It will immediately exercise "real political power," he said, to appoint interim ministers. The council will also work with coalition forces on policy and budgets.
The council will include representatives of the nation's main religious and ethnic groups: Kurds, Christians, Turkmen, and Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Members will represent each of Iraq's seven main political parties, and will include three women and one or more prominent tribal leaders.
Ultimately, the council will have executive powers and a membership of 25-30 Iraqis, a representative of one of the groups told CNN.
Bremer said the council will establish procedures to write Iraq's new constitution. After the constitution is ratified, elections may be held for a sovereign Iraqi government, he said.
The group was once intended to be an "advisory council," but was changed to "governing council" after agreements were reached between Bremer, the group of seven political parties and other representatives, according to CNN's Iraqi source.
The group of seven includes Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress; Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party; Iyad Alawi's Iraqi National Accord; Ibrahim Jafari's Islamic Al-Da'wah Party; Nasir Chaderchi's Iraq Democratic Party; the Iraqi National Coalition, headed by Adnan Pachachi, former foreign minister of Iraq before the Baath Party came to power; and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, headed by Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim.
The new governing council is expected to have a Shiite majority, which would mark the first time in centuries that Sunni Muslims wouldn't be dominant in Iraq's political affairs, as they were when Saddam Hussein's Baath Party held power.
Bremer is expected to bestow on the council members the power to appoint cabinet ministers and representatives to international bodies such as the United Nations.
"The powers are OK -- quite adequate -- in fact, quite sufficient," said Alawi, with the Iraqi National Accord. "It gives the authority on security issues, except operational issues, which is understandable."
A U.S. soldier was wounded early Saturday when assailants launched rocket-propelled grenades on American forces guarding a prison near the Iraqi capital, U.S. military authorities said.
The 400th Military Police Battalion -- guarding a prison in Abu Ghurayb, about 25 miles west of Baghdad -- reported hearing three explosions after midnight local time, the military authorities said.
At least 79 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since President Bush announced the end to major fighting May 1. Of those, 32 have been killed by hostile fire, and 47 were victims of unintentional shootings or accidents. In recent incidents:
• Witnesses said a car pulled up next to the Ministry of Justice in Baghdad on Friday, and three people inside hurled pipe bombs at a U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle parked there. An Iraqi guard was injured, and the assailants fled. Also, a group of nearby U.S. soldiers chased down, questioned and arrested an Iraqi man in connection with a building fire.
• Two U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi were wounded Thursday night in a mortar attack on a military compound in the central town of Samarra, military sources said.
• Two Iraqis were wounded Thursday when U.S. forces returned fire after a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the highway to the Baghdad airport. One was wounded in the neck, the other in the abdomen.
• President Bush said Saturday that he remains confident in George Tenet following the CIA director's statement taking responsibility for a now-discredited line in the president's State of the Union address alleging that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa. "I've got confidence in George Tenet; I've got confidence in the men and women who work at the CIA," Bush said. In a statement released Friday evening, Tenet said that the CIA had seen and approved the speech before it was delivered. (Full story)
• British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has defended the United Kingdom's decision to include in its first Iraqi dossier claims that Saddam tried to get uranium from Africa. Straw acknowledged Saturday that the CIA expressed reservations about the use of the claim in the British government's September dossier on Iraqi weapons -- but insisted that it was based on what British officials regarded as "reliable intelligence" that had not been shared with the United States. (Full story)
• Spain's Cabinet voted Friday to send 1,300 troops to Iraq for peacekeeping duties, Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo said. They will be part of a 12-nation force operating in a south-central sector of Iraq between Baghdad and Basra. The force initially will be under Polish command, Trillo said. He said that the Spanish deployment would begin Saturday and that the troops would be fully deployed and operational by September. (Full story)
CNN Baghdad bureau chief Jane Arraf, Madrid bureau chief Al Goodman, and correspondents Rym Brahimi, Dana Bash, David Ensor, Suzanne Malveaux, Jamie McIntyre and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.