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Council official dies five days after attack

By Wire services
Published September 26, 2003

BAGHDAD - Five days after being seriously wounded in a shooting, a member of Iraq's Governing Council died of her wounds Thursday, officials said, becoming the first Iraqi political leader appointed by the U.S. occupation authority to be killed in the violence roiling this country.

Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the 25-member council, never emerged from a coma at a U.S. military hospital, where she had been taken after being attacked Saturday by several gunmen in Baghdad. A gunshot wound damaged her pancreas, liver, intestines and stomach.

Al-Hashimi, 50 and unmarried, was the only official of the ousted regime appointed to the new leadership. No suspects have been arrested in the attack, but many Iraqis believe she was gunned down by angry members of the Baath Party she once served.

In a statement, the Governing Council said Hashimi, 50, had died "at the hands of a heinous, infidel group known only for their mischief and darkness."

First troops start vacations

WASHINGTON - Tens of thousands of American soldiers are expected to get brief vacations from the war in Iraq under the first large-scale R&R program since Vietnam.

The first 270 troops were flown Thursday out of the region en route to Germany and the United States, taking leave from deployments that are turning out to be longer and tougher than expected.

The program was ordered to provide relief for forces serving 12-month tours of duty in the hot, dangerous and sometimes primitive conditions in Iraq, as well as those in support roles in neighboring countries. That means it is available to the vast majority of the more than 130,000 troops deployed there.

TROOPS TO REMAIN THROUGH '04: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Thursday that "significant forces" from the United States probably will remain in Iraq through the end of next year.

Pressed by House Democrats about whether the administration planned to withdraw U.S. troops right before the 2004 presidential election, Wolfowitz assured them that no decisions were being made on political grounds.

Britain wraps up inquiry

LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair's government drove a weapons expert to commit suicide as it battled to restore its credibility over the war in Iraq, a lawyer for the scientist's family said Thursday.

But in closing arguments to a judicial inquiry, the government insisted it had every right to publicly name David Kelly, who was identified as the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that accused Blair's office of exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq's weapons.

The government's pitched battle with the BBC and Kelly's apparent suicide sparked the biggest crisis of Blair's six years in office and put the government's controversial case for war in Iraq under intense scrutiny.

The judgment of Lord Hutton, the appeals judge who conducted the inquiry, is expected in late November or December, and could cost jobs within the government and the BBC.

Powell: Progress at U.N.

NEW YORK - Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that the Bush administration had begun to close ranks with critics at the United Nations on a resolution to govern nation-building in Iraq. "We are seeing some convergence of views," he said after a five-power meeting.

Powell said the Bush administration "will be working on language" to modify its proposed resolution. Assigning specific Iraq responsibilities to the U.N. secretary-general will be under consideration, Powell said.

In an interview with the New York Times being published today, Powell said the United States would set a deadline of six months for Iraqi leaders to produce a new constitution for their country.

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