Schools open amid calls for cautionBy Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 4, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq - In an attempt to bring a semblance of order into their lives, some parents sent their children to school on Saturday, braving the hazards of a city with few buses, piles of fly-infested garbage, no phones, few jobs and little money, food or water.
But on the first official day of school since the war began, many more students and teachers stayed home, fearing for their safety because American soldiers have been able to inspect only a fraction of the Iraqi capital's school buildings for weapons.
On Saturday, the American-appointed interim Baghdad police chief resigned, saying he wanted to make way for younger leaders and spend more time with his family.
Zuhair Abdul Razaq had been in charge of getting former police officers back to work. Officers are supposed to report for duty today.
President Bush said Saturday that former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who surrendered to U.S. forces 10 days ago, has been uncooperative.
"We're learning that Tariq Aziz still doesn't know how to tell the truth," Bush told reporters outside his ranch in Crawford, Texas. "He didn't know how to tell the truth when he was in office. He doesn't know how to tell the truth when he's been - as a captive."
Bush said he is confident weapons of mass destruction will be found.
As Iraqis continued to complain about the lack of a visible government or a police force to secure their streets, the U.S. Army said it is sending its most experienced peacekeeping unit to Iraq. The 1st Armored Division in Wiesbaden, Germany, will start arriving in Iraq over the next two weeks.
The United States plans to set up an international force in three regions of Iraq, with Poland and Britain controlling two zones and U.S. forces the third.
French and German leaders separately endorsed the proposal, saying it doesn't undercut their desire that the United Nations play an important part in rebuilding Iraq.
The United Nations said Saturday that employees from several U.N. agencies, including the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Food Program, were arriving in Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, this weekend to establish a "permanent humanitarian presence." U.N. officials are already in Baghdad.
The few bright spots here were the clusters of children, dressed in blue and white uniforms, who hiked to school to resume classes that had come to a halt seven weeks ago.
They arrived with high hopes. Randa Muayed, 10, was sure school would be different now.
"The Americans will bring us bananas," she said. "Bananas and oranges and apples."
At Kamshly elementary school, where she is a student, the teachers spent three days last week cleaning the building to prepare for their 800 students.
Only 30 children showed up at 8:30 a.m., but they were greeted with hugs and kisses. And for the first time in their lives, they did not have to begin the school day by pledging their love and devotion to Saddam Hussein.
Amid the giddy delight, though, there were tears.
One student, a fifth-grade girl named Ala, had been killed during the U.S. bombing.
"No!" cried one teacher. "Not her."
There was more sad news to discuss. The school's bus driver had also been killed, shot by U.S. soldiers when he apparently failed to stop at a checkpoint.
Everyone had a story and was eager to tell it.
The principal, Bushra Cesar, had splurged on Friday and bought a satellite television dish.
"I saw the world for the first time," she said. "I saw where we were. I saw presidents and cities and people from everywhere! The whole world!"
- Information from the New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press was used in this report.
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