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Interim Premier Urges Iraqi Unity

4 June 2004 -- Iyad Allawi called on Iraqis to unite against terrorism and voiced support for the continued presence of foreign troops in the country in his first televised speech as interim prime minister.

Allawi also said U.S.-led forces will help ensure security after Iraq regains its sovereignty on 30 June.

"The targeting of the multinational forces under the leadership of the United States to force them to leave Iraq would inflict a major disaster on Iraq, especially before the completion of the building of security and military institutions," Allawi said.

The speech came as Allawi faced criticism from Shi'a cleric and anti-U.S. militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who denounced the new interim government as illegitimate. The interim cabinet was announced on 1 June by the United Nations after deliberations with U.S. officials and the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

Allawi said that Iraq's newly appointed president, Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, will attend a Group of Eight summit in the United States next week.

Allawi also said his interim government will work for national unity as the country prepares for its first free elections in early 2005.

In the Iraqi capital Baghdad, five U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack today.

New efforts toward a lasting cease-fire between U.S.-led forces and insurgents were reported in Al-Najaf and Al-Kufah. Fighters loyal to al-Sadr were set to withdraw from the streets, and the U.S. military said it would pull back from some positions in the holy cities.

The U.S. military today also announced the recent arrest in Iraq of Umar Baziyani, a top aide to alleged terrorist mastermind Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.

A UN human rights report today said the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq ended years of human rights violations by Saddam Hussein's regime but also committed violations of its own.

(compiled from RFE/RL and agency reports)

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