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Iraq: With War Nearly Over, Security, Rebuilding Top Concerns

Prague, 15 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The war in Iraq is all but over, with the U.S. saying there has been no significant combat in the country today.

But security remains a concern in Baghdad and many other cities, where looting and violence broke out following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

There was an unconfirmed report of a shooting incident in the northern city of Mosul. The French news agency AFP says at least 10 people were killed and dozens others wounded after U.S. troops reportedly opened fire on a crowd.

The report said troops shot at the crowd after it became increasingly hostile toward the city's new governor, Mashaan al-Juburi, as he was making a speech in support of the United States. The report quotes U.S. troops as saying they had been fired upon first.

Radio Free Iraq correspondent Sami Shoresh is in Arbil, where he spoke to two witnesses who said they were injured in the shooting. "They told me that were was a demonstration of 1,000 Iraqis, inhabitants of Mosul, in support of Saddam Hussein. They tried to enter the governor's building in the city, but it seems there was a clash between them and the troops who were protecting the governor's building in the city. They told me, I don't know how much is true, that 15 civilians were killed and maybe one American soldier was killed, [but] it's not 100 percent sure," Shoresh reported.

A spokesman for the U.S. military, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, told a press briefing he has seen no military reports of the incident and cannot confirm it.

In Baghdad, Iraqi policemen have been patrolling with U.S. troops in a bid to restore order in the capital. U.S. forces have also distributed leaflets in Baghdad urging Iraqis to stay home at night to prevent crime and fighting.

General Brooks said during today's briefing at U.S. Central Command in Qatar that looting is decreasing. He said the last oil-well fire has been extinguished and that coalition forces are turning their attention to helping develop the postwar government. "Coalition forces are working closely with emerging leaders and religious leaders in several areas to assist the formation of local governmental structures," Brooks said.

Talks were under way today in an effort to set up a new interim authority for the country. The meeting near Nasiriyah brought together U.S. officials with representatives of Iraqi exile opposition groups, as well as Iraqis who lived under Hussien. But the main Shiite group boycotted the meeting, and there were protests in Nasiriyah against U.S. influence over the country's future.