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Iraq: U.S. Unveils Plans For New Iraqi Army

Baghdad, 23 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq is to get a new army division numbering 12,000 troops within a year, the chief adviser for security issues in the U.S. civil administration, Walter Slocombe, said today. The New Iraqi Army would be responsible for border protection, securing roads and installations, and clearing mines and unexploded bombs left over from the war, he said.

Slocombe also announced payments to hundreds of thousands of demobilized regular soldiers and conscripts, following outbreaks of violence during wage demonstrations in Baghdad. About 200,000 regular soldiers would continue to receive their pay while 300,000 conscripts and reserves would receive one-off payments.

Only a small number of officers would be employed in the new army, as it will be much smaller than that of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "It will be a military troop, not a police force," Slocombe said.

The first division was conceived as a light infantry. The objective was to establish three divisions with about 40,000 soldiers within three years. U.S. General Paul Eaton, former commander of the infantry school in the United States, would supervise training to be conducted by U.S. firms. Recruiting would begin next week.

"We have always said that the former military personnel is part of the Iraqi future, if they were not too profoundly enmeshed in Saddam Hussein's regime," said Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq. The future of Kurdish militias in northern Iraq will not be influenced by the option for a new army, he said.