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Coalition may hike Iraqi army pay

Meager salaries push Iraqi soldiers to quit

A representative of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says that some 300 of 700 members of the new Iraqi army have resigned.
A representative of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says that some 300 of 700 members of the new Iraqi army have resigned.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S.- led coalition leaders are considering pay raises for members of the new Iraqi army after about half of the recruits resigned, the U.S. general in charge of Iraqi military operations said in a news conference Saturday.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said the exodus was primarily from married soldiers who were trying to support their families on $60 a month.

"That's where our challenges are, and that's what we're looking into," Sanchez said.

About 300 of 700 members of the new Iraqi army have quit. The first and only battalion of the new army serves under the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division.

Sanchez said that while it is a setback for the one battalion in question, recruiting for the Iraqi army "is up to what is needed."

"I believe our targets for building the new Iraqi army are still valid. We're not seeing a challenge in recruiting" for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

The coalition is hopeful that a growing Iraqi force will help them defeat the protracted guerrilla fight against the coalition.

More soldier deaths

Insurgent attacks killed two more U.S. soldiers Friday in separate incidents, one of which involved an improvised explosive device that detonated as a U.S. convoy passed, the military said.

The crude bomb went off about 6:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m. ET Thursday) near the town of Ramadi, about 60 miles west of Baghdad. A convoy carrying members of Task Force All American was traveling on the road at the time.

Three soldiers were wounded in the blast, but one later died at a field hospital, the military said. The condition of the two other soldiers was not immediately released.

Earlier Friday, the military said a soldier with the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division died from a "non-hostile gunshot wound." The soldier, whose identity was not released pending notification of next of kin, died around 3:20 a.m. (7:20 p.m. Thursday ET). Further details about what happened were not available.

The two deaths Friday brings to 455 the number of U.S. troops killed since the start of the Iraq war. Of those 312 have died from hostile fire, while 143 deaths have been classified as non-hostile.

There is no reliable source for Iraqi civilian or combatant casualty figures from the period of major combat or after May 1. The Associated Press reported an estimated 3,240 civilian Iraqi deaths between March 20 and April 20, but the AP reported that the figure was based on records of only half of Iraq's hospitals and the actual number is thought to be significantly higher.

Other developments

• Shoshana Johnson, who was a prisoner of war for 22 days after being shot in a March ambush that killed nine, was discharged from the Army on Friday. (Full story)

• Thursday night, a rocket attack in Baghdad jolted the "Green Zone," the location of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the nerve center of U.S. operations. Two U.S. soldiers sustained minor injuries. Insurgents targeted the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters in November, but no one was injured.

•  A Pentagon audit is raising questions about whether a subsidiary of Halliburton -- an oil services company once run by Vice President Dick Cheney -- overcharged the U.S. government $61 million for gasoline imported from Kuwait to Iraq. The contract is being reviewed, and Halliburton will have to justify the sum. (Full story)

• Also Thursday, President Bush defended the decision to limit the competition for $18.6 billion worth of Iraq reconstruction contracts to countries that supported the war, despite sharp international protests. (Full story)


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