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Unpaid Iraqi soldiers start receiving salaries, but discontent simmers

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Adnan Zgair points to one of the oil-filled trenches burned during the war.

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Many Iraqi soldiers have not been paid since Saddam Hussein was toppled. And U.S. administrator Paul Bremer says they may have to wait a few more months.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. civil administrator for Iraq L. Paul Bremer said that some soldiers of the dismantled Iraqi army started receiving salaries Tuesday, but an Iraqi sergeant warns that discontent still simmers among the defeated troops.

Adnan Zgair , who took part in the futile efforts to thwart the coalition attack on Baghdad, has not been paid since Saddam Hussein was toppled April 9.

He manned one of the oil-filled trenches that were burned to obscure the Baghdad skies in an attempt to hinder the Iraqi capital's bombing by coalition warplanes.

For his work, this 30-year army veteran says he was paid about $76 a month. During the war, he said he tended the trenches for nearly four weeks.

"Defending one's country is an instinct, it is within every human," says Zgair. "No one can dispute that."

His salary supported his wife and his children. He and his wife recently sold their gold wedding rings to buy food.

"I'm embarrassed to leave my house," he says. "I owe money to the grocer and the butcher."

The Iraqi soldiers were dismissed from the armed forces in May by Bremer and have received no wages for four months.

The longer he and his former colleagues go unpaid, the more dangerous the situation will become for the U.S. troops, says Zgair.

"Under the circumstances that I, and thousands of others like me are facing, don't you think it is natural that we would seek revenge?" he asks.

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Zgair's wife and kids

Correspondents in Baghdad have reported that the situation in the Iraqi capital is tense due to the presence of about 250,000 demobilized soldiers and bandits.

But at a news conference Tuesday, Bremer said that the administration is taking steps to beef up security in the country.

He said recruitment for an Iraqi army will begin next week in Mosul, Erbil, Baghdad and Basra. He added that 32,000 Iraqi policemen are already working in the country.

A protest in June by former Iraqi soldiers outside the coalition's administration headquarters in Baghdad turned violent when they swarmed an American convoy passing nearby. Two Iraqis were shot dead by the U.S. forces in the incident.


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