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Iraq: U.S. Civil Administrator Appoints Defense Minister, Intelligence Chief

Baghdad, 5 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- In Baghdad yesterday, the top U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, announced the creation of three new Iraqi government institutions in an effort to put greater control of security in the hands of Iraqis.

"To integrate Iraq's military, intelligence and political efforts, I am today creating three institutions,” Bremer said. “Together, they will give the new Iraq the architecture and means to formulate security policies appropriate to Iraq's security needs. These institutions are, first, the Ministry of Defense; second, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service; and finally, the Ministerial Committee for National Security."

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq had previously dissolved Iraqi's entire security and defense apparatus after the ouster of former leader Saddam Hussein. A new Iraqi army and police force are both being built and trained by the coalition in Iraq and in Jordan.

Bremer appointed the current Iraqi trade minister, Ali Abd al-Amir Allawi, to be the interim defense minister. Muhammad al-Shahwani, a former Iraqi Air Force officer who fled from Iraq in 1990, was named the interim head of the new Iraqi intelligence service.

Bremer said Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law firmly establishes civilian control over the Iraqi military. Allawi told journalists that he supports this principle. "I seize this opportunity to thank the members of the Governing Council and the coalition countries for the creation of a new Defense Ministry," he said. "I am not a former officer, and I do not have any military experience, but I believe in the authority of law, democracy and constitutional order. And I believe that all the state's institutions, including military institutions, should be under the authority of the law and constitution."

Saddam Hussein had a conscript army of some 400,000 troops. The new, mainly U.S.-funded Iraqi army is expected to be a 35,000-strong force and to be in place by the end of September.

After the announcement of his appointment, the new interim intelligence chief, al-Shahwani, talked about his persecution by the Hussein regime. "I have the honor to accept the new post as head of Iraq's intelligence service," he said. "I personally suffered a lot from the former intelligence service. It chased me for 19 years, and I survived 12 assassination attempts and had three sons executed."

Bremer said the intelligence service, which had been a feared institution under Hussein, would not be allowed to arrest people or to get involved in domestic politics. But he said it will give Iraqis another tool for defending themselves against terrorists and insurgents.

The Ministerial Committee on National Security will also emerge alongside the Defense Ministry to coordinate policies between the ministry and other security agencies.

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