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Iraq: U.S. Begins Urgent Task Of Restoring Order

Baghdad, 13 April 2003 (RFE/RL) - U.S. forces today began the task of trying to restore normalcy to Iraq, launching drives to rebuild the police force and electric-power department. Hundreds of cars filled the center of Baghdad as local residents queued up for jobs in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

U.S. Marines set up a screening desk in a hotel seeking to put Iraqis back to work in key sectors, while meetings were held on rebuilding the police and power departments, a Marines spokeswoman said.

The Americans have come in for increasing criticism in recent days for failing to stem looting and establish security and basic services in Iraq.

Volunteers were out in the Iraqi capital today removing the bodies of people killed in fighting between U.S. troops and forces of the ousted regime.

In Washington, The Group of Seven leading industrialized nations have agreed to work together to rebuild Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the Iraqis will choose their future government in democratic elections.

Meanwhile, Powell said in an interview with the BBC aired today that the United States has not appointed anyone to be the future leader of Iraq or to be the leader of the interim Iraqi authority.

He said the United States is not "in the business of installing the next president of Iraq."

Meanwhile, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is due to meet with Iraqi opposition leaders on 15 April in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. Officials said the meeting would be the first step toward forming a government that would take power following an interim period of U.S. administration.

British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said in an interview today that Ba'ath Party members could be allowed to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq. He said many Iraqis were members of the Ba'ath Party during the rule of Saddam Hussein because they had no choice.