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Shiite group opposes 'puppet' government

American soldier killed near Tikrit

U.S. troops escort a bus carrying a team of U.N. inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency back to their hotel Saturday after visiting the looted nuclear facility in Tuwaitha.
U.S. troops escort a bus carrying a team of U.N. inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency back to their hotel Saturday after visiting the looted nuclear facility in Tuwaitha.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A spokesman for a former Iraqi opposition group said Friday that he would not accept any interim government appointed by the U.S.-led coalition.

"We think an appointment of any administration would be against U.N. resolutions," Hamed Bayati, spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told CNN. "It won't be accepted by the Iraqi people, and the whole region will say, 'This is a puppet government or a puppet administration appointed by the Americans to achieve their interests.' "

SCIRI is the main political group of the Shiite Muslim majority of the country. Bayati is the group's primary spokesman.

Emerging from the convention center in downtown Baghdad after a three-hour meeting with Paul Bremer, the new civilian administrator for Iraq, and representatives of 16 other Iraqi political and tribal groups, Bayati said the meeting's U.S. participants agreed to consider giving Iraqis a greater role in the selection of an interim political council.

Bayati's comments were the latest in the messy U.S.-led attempt to forge a democratic government in Iraq after decades of authoritarian rule by former President Saddam Hussein.

"The best way for the Americans, for the Iraqis and for the world is to have an Iraqi mechanism to select an Iraqi administration," Bayati said. "Then, we can defend the process and we can be part of it. We cannot be part of an appointed administration, and I think this is the position of the rest of the political parties and groups."

Bremer conveyed a message from U.S. President George W. Bush, with whom he met Thursday in Qatar. Bush said he remains committed to pledges he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have made before -- that they want a free, democratic Iraq that lives in peace with its neighbors and is led by a government elected by Iraqis, Bayati said. (Bush in Qatar)

The Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Bremer and in charge of setting up an interim government, recently scrapped plans to hold a national conference in which Iraqi politicians would choose representatives among themselves, and instead said the U.S.-led group would appoint a 25- to 35-member political council to do so.

That council will be formed in four to six weeks, Bayati said, a time frame consistent with U.S. predictions.

Missing antiquities recovered in vault

Investigators probing the ransacking of the prestigious National Museum in Baghdad have recovered the museum's collection of priceless gold jewelry from ancient royal tombs, the U.S.-led administration said Saturday.

Coalition officials said they discovered nearly 8,000 items this week in sealed bank vaults -- including the treasures of Nimrud, which archaeologists have described as the most spectacular find since the discovery of King Tut's tomb. (Full story)

The treasures were exhibited only once before they were put in vaults for safekeeping, just before the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Investigators have determined that just 3,000 items from the museum are still lost or stolen, compared with early estimates of up to 170,000, coalition officials said. About 47 of the missing pieces were from the museum's main exhibit, which includes some of the most archaeologically significant objects.

Soldier killed in Tikrit attack

A U.S. soldier was killed and four were wounded Saturday morning near Tikrit in Iraq by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire, U.S. Central Command said.

The injured were taken to military medical facilities in the area by helicopter and ground ambulances, Central Command said in a news release.

Central Command said the soldier's names and unit were being withheld pending next-of-kin notification.

Other developments

A man is held in handcuffs by U.S. soldiers after he was caught with scrap metals and other allegedly stolen items in Baghdad on Saturday.
A man is held in handcuffs by U.S. soldiers after he was caught with scrap metals and other allegedly stolen items in Baghdad on Saturday.

• One soldier was killed and two were injured Friday in a vehicle accident about 22 miles [35 kilometers] north of Baghdad, U.S. Central Command said. The soldiers were providing security escort to Coalition Provisional Authority personnel at the time of the accident. Central Command released the information Saturday. The identities of the soldiers and their unit are being withheld pending notification of their families.

• Iraq's former deputy police commander, Gen. Mohammed Habib al Mashadani, was arrested Friday night in Baghdad on suspicion of corruption, intimidation, and attempting to reorganize Saddam Hussein's Baath party in the reformed Iraqi police, the U.S.-led administration in Iraq said Saturday.

• A team of experts from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Iraq on Friday to assess the damage to the Tuwaitha nuclear research center, which was looted after the war. Residents of villages surrounding the Tuwaitha nuclear facility, about six miles (10 kilometers) south of Baghdad, said they used drums from the site to hold water. The drums had contained uranium oxide, or yellowcake, which the villagers said was dumped on the ground. (Full story)

• A U.S. Navy Seabee was killed and one was wounded Thursday in an explosion in Kut, according to Pentagon officials. The seaman was killed while working on a construction site and operating heavy equipment when either a land mine or unexploded ordnance detonated under the vehicle, a Pentagon official said. Officials say they believe the incident was not a hostile act. Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, is under Marine control.

• Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz experienced chest pains this week and might have suffered a mild heart attack while in custody, U.S. officials said Thursday. Aziz, who has a history of heart problems, has received medical treatment for his condition since surrendering to the U.S. military in April, officials said.

-- CNN correspondent Jane Arraf and producer Bruce Conover contributed to this report.

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