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16 May 2004 -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Egypt on 16 May that coalition forces will remain in Iraq "for a considerable period," but that a new interim Iraqi government will have authority after the 30 June handover of power.

"We had extensive discussions on the work of [UN special envoy] Ambassador [Lakhdar] Brahimi and the process of moving forward, and the necessity of getting the security under control and making sure that everybody understands that on the first of July, it will be the Iraqi interim government that is replacing Ambassador [Paul] Bremmer and the Coalition Provisional Authority," Powell said. "The United States armed forces and coalition forces will remain to work with the new government in creating a stable environment so that they can get about the work of preparing for national elections next January."

Powell also apologized for abuses against Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops in Iraq.

Meanwhile, gunmen killed three Iraqi women employed with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq on 16 May. The attackers ambushed the workers' minibus on a Baghdad highway.

Also in Baghdad, one U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded in a bomb blast last night.

Elsewhere, U.S. troops today killed two militiamen in Al-Najaf after coming under fire.

In Karbala, sporadic fighting broke out between coalition forces and guerrillas loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

In addition, the Arabic satellite-television network Al-Jazeera today aired video footage showing what it reported were two Russian hostages seized in Iraq last week.

Al-Jazeera reported that the two are being held by an Iraqi Islamic group that is calling on coalition forces to withdraw from Iraq.

The two men appeared to be in good health.

(Reuters/ITAR-TASS/wire reports)
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