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Officials: Ban on Baathists delays Iraqi government

U.S.: Former Republican Guard general surrenders

New U.S. civil administrator L. Paul Bremer, right, greets the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, at a meeting with Iraqi opposition group leaders in Baghdad.
New U.S. civil administrator L. Paul Bremer, right, greets the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, at a meeting with Iraqi opposition group leaders in Baghdad.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The decision to ban senior Baath Party members from holding jobs in a future Iraqi government will delay the handover of control to Iraqis, senior officials with the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance said.

U.S. civil administrator L. Paul Bremer has ordered a large-scale operation to ensure that Baath Party members are removed from critical positions in the public sector. This ban could affect as many as 30,000 senior Baath Party members.

The delay was revealed Friday as Bremer and John Sawers, British envoy to Iraq, met with opposition leaders.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner initially had allowed some former Baath officials to hold positions, including interim health minister and Baghdad University president, but the decision resulted in protests among Iraqis. Bremer replaced Garner this week.

Iraqi opposition leaders had expected an interim government would emerge from a national conference set for the end of May.

Coalition officials said they do not know when they will be able to hand the country's administration over to Iraqis or even if there will be an interim government chosen.

The decision to dismantle the Baath Party -- which boasted between 600,000 and 700,000 members -- means a large portion of those with government experience will not be available to help in an interim administration.

Meanwhile, the former secretary general of Iraq's Republican Guard surrendered early Saturday to coalition forces in Baghdad, U.S. Central Command said.

General Kamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan Al-Tikriti was No. 8 on the U.S. "top 55" list and the queen of clubs in the most wanted deck of cards. (Gallery: Most-wanted; Flash gallery: cards deck)

He is the 23rd person on the list taken into custody.

On the diplomatic front, the United States, Great Britain and Spain are working to address concerns over the draft U.N. Security Council resolution on lifting sanctions on Iraq, which U.S. officials hope to bring to a vote next week.

Council diplomats met Friday to discuss the revised draft resolution that calls for the immediate lifting of sanctions, creates a role for a U.N. coordinator in Iraq and introduces a four-month phase-out of the oil-for-food program.

It also would give the United States and Britain authority to run Iraq for at least a year.

A Security Council diplomat said many countries had questions and were seeking clarification from the resolution co-sponsors. He said the co-sponsors took down points but did not offer any solutions.

A diplomat from one of the co-sponsoring nations said they would take a look at all the concerns and questions raised in Friday's meeting and report back to the council.

Some questions raised included clarification on the role of the U.N. coordinator in Iraq and on the process of raising revenue from oil sales. A Syrian diplomat emphasized that many council members sought further explanation and more transparency in the resolution.

John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, had said he expected a vote on the resolution next week. It is unclear whether this vote will go forward as expected.

Other developments

• Residents of a village northwest of Baghdad said Saturday they believed a mass grave at a nearby air base held the remains of Iraqis killed in an anti-government uprising and not Kuwaiti prisoners of war from the 1991 Gulf War as was first reported. Earlier, the Iraqi National Congress said it had recovered 40 bodies from the site at an air base in Habbaniyah and said 600 may have been buried there. CNN correspondent John Vause traveled to the site but saw fewer than 10 bodies and no evidence at the site that the remains belonged to Kuwaitis or prisoners of war.

Soccer fans in Baghdad watch a match between national champions Al Shurta and fourth-placed Al-Zawra in the first football match since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.
Soccer fans in Baghdad watch a match between national champions Al Shurta and fourth-placed Al-Zawra in the first football match since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

• Villagers near Iraq's largest nuclear research facility complain that they are falling ill from what doctors say might be radiation poisoning. The research facility, which stores nonweapons-grade radioactive materials, was looted in the final days of the Iraq war. Many containers were stolen and used by residents near the Tuwaitha complex to store drinking water, among other things. The facility is about six miles (10 kilometers) south of Baghdad. (Full story)

• Spc. David T. Nutt, 22, of Blackshear, Georgia, was killed Wednesday in Mosul, Iraq, when an Iraqi civilian vehicle cut off his loaded 5-ton truck, the U.S. Defense Department said Friday. "Nutt swerved, hit the median and his vehicle overturned," the statement said. The incident is under investigation. Nutt was assigned to the 494th Transportation Company, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

• Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik will travel to Iraq this weekend to assist the new U.S. civil administrator in bringing security to Baghdad, Kerik's spokeswoman and Pentagon officials said Friday. Pentagon officials said Bremer picked Kerik "to advise in the establishment of security, stability and law and order in Iraq."

• The Marine reservist in charge of the U.S. investigation into looting at the Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad said Friday that initial reports of catastrophic thefts were a "gross, if dramatic exaggeration." Col. Matthew Bogdanos, a former New York prosecutor, said the most valuable items had been hidden months or years before the war. Bogdanos acknowledged that shoddy inventories and incomplete cooperation from museum officials might make a full accounting impossible. (Gallery: The looted museum)

• A top Baath Party official on the U.S. most-wanted list is in the custody of coalition forces, U.S. Central Command said Friday. Soldiers with the U.S. Army's V Corps captured Adil Adallah Mahdi al-Duri al-Tikrit in a raid on the town of Al Door. The official was a Baath Party regional command chairman from the Dhi Qar governorate.

CNN Correspondent Jane Arraf and CNN Producers Bruce Conover, Alina Gracheva, Liz Neisloss, Vivian Paulsen and Jonathan Wald contributed to this report.

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