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Bush appoints civilian chief for reconstruction

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 7, 2003

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Tuesday announced the appointment of L. Paul Bremer, a retired diplomat and counterterrorism expert, as his special envoy to Iraq, making him the senior civilian in charge of rebuilding the country's government and infrastructure.

Bremer will take charge of a multibillion-dollar enterprise currently run by a retired lieutenant general, Jay Garner, who reports to Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq. Bremer will report directly to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, administration officials said.

The shift underscores the White House's intention to speed the transition from a military occupation to civilian administration, senior officials said.

Report: Illicit mobile lab found

WASHINGTON - A suspected mobile biological weapons lab has been recovered in northern Iraq, a development that senior U.S. officials said Tuesday would lend support to Bush administration claims of a banned weapons program by the government of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The Washington Post reported, quoting an unnamed senior administration official, that the Pentagon today will announce the results of a two-week investigation into a semitrailer truck stolen from a government depot in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul and handed over to U.S. forces. He said equipment found on the truck included a fermenter that could be used to produce biological agents.

The official said the truck and the equipment inside it had been cleaned with bleach and therefore did not show any identifiable residue of biological agents. The Post and Knight Ridder Newspapers, quoting unnamed intelligence officials, reported that analysts could not find any other plausible use for the truck except biological-weapons production.

Halliburton deal called richer

WASHINGTON - An emergency contract the Bush administration gave to Halliburton Co. to extinguish Iraqi oil fires also gave the firm a more lucrative role in restarting the country's oil system, documents showed Tuesday.

A congressional critic of the Houston company, formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, said the administration was hiding the expanded role.

A spokeswoman for Halliburton said the company's initial announcement of the contract on March 24 disclosed the larger role for its KBR subsidiary.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman on Friday, disclosed that the no-bid contract included not only extinguishing fires but "operation of facilities and distribution of products."

Waxman, D-Calif., senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, wrote Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers of the corps on Tuesday, saying the contract "is considerably broader in scope than previously known."

Fuel to be imported

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Hoping to quell mounting anger among Iraqis over persistent and widespread fuel shortages, Iraqi and U.S. officials announced Tuesday that Iraq would import gasoline and cooking gas from neighboring Arab countries for at least the next month.

The capital's gasoline lines seemed so dire that a U.S. Army general distributed free gas to passenger cars.

"I saw the long lines at gas stations and knew that these people were going to get frustrated," said Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, as a soldier pumped fuel from a tanker truck into an Iraqi's sedan.

Also Tuesday . . .

MORE POWS FREED: American forces freed 250 more Iraqi war prisoners in southern Iraq, continuing to empty U.S.-run detention camps that once housed 7,000 men. In the past two weeks, more than 5,000 POWs and civilian detainees have been released from Camp Bucca in Umm Qasr after a military tribunal determined they posed no threat, said Sgt. Maj. Ambrose Michelino, a U.S. military police officer.

About 1,800 prisoners are still in this port city, he said. Ambrose said most will be freed in coming days, though he expected 400 to 900 "hard-core" prisoners would be held for questioning.

EU OFFICIAL ARRIVES: The European Union's top humanitarian aid official came to Iraq and said assistance to the country should be coordinated primarily by the United Nations rather than the United States. The 15-member EU plans to open an aid office in Baghdad by month's end, EU development commissioner Poul Nielson said as he arrived to assess humanitarian needs.

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