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Iraq: U.S. Administrator Arrives In Baghdad

Baghdad, 21 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Retired U.S. Army General Jay Garner arrived today in Baghdad to start work as the U.S.-backed postwar administrator for Iraq. Garner said before his arrival that his first priority will be to restore basic services such as electricity and water as soon as possible.

Garner started his tour of Baghdad with a visit to the Yarmuk Hospital, which has been devastated by looting and has no working electricity. He is later due to visit water and power plants in the capital.

As the head of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, Garner is expected to assist the creation of an interim government of Iraqis, economic recovery, and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims arrived in the city of Karbala in a pilgrimage that was banned under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Some participants used the massive gathering as an opportunity for political protest, demanding U.S. forces' withdrawal from Iraq.

Yesterday, two more Iraqis on the United States' "most wanted" list have been detained, among them Hussein's son-in-law.

The political movement known as the Iraqi National Congress said Jamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti, who is married to Hussein's youngest daughter, had returned from Syria to surrender to them.

Sultan al-Tikriti, who was expected to be handed over to U.S.-led forces, was described as the first close member of Hussein's family to have been detained.

The U.S. military said Hussein's minister of higher education and scientific research, Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Gafar, had also been captured.

The arrests bring to seven the number of the U.S.'s top 55 most-wanted Iraqis now in custody.

President George W. Bush said there have been "positive signs" that Syria has been paying attention to U.S. calls to deny sanctuary to fleeing members of Hussein's Ba'ath Party regime.

Bush also said he was not worried by recent anti-American demonstrations among Iraqis.

"I'm not worried. Freedom is beautiful and when people are free they express their opinions. They couldn't express their opinions before we came, now they can. I always said democracy is going to be hard. It's not easy to go from being enslaved to being free. But it's going to happen because the basic instincts of mankind is to be free, they want to be free. So sure, there are people who express their opinions, and we welcome that."

The first convoy of United Nations food aid has reached Baghdad after a four-day trip from Jordan. The convoy of about 50 trucks is reported carrying 1,400 metric tons of wheat flour.

The U.S. military has also announced that Baghdad's international airport is expected to reopen for humanitarian flights within a week.