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UN to have no political power in postwar Iraq

March 20, 2003

Financial Times
Guy Dinmore and Peronet Despeignes in Washington and Henry Hamman in Miami

Gen Tommy Franks will take immediate charge of Iraq once Saddam Hussein is overthrown, but the head of US Central Command will then start the process of handing over government to an interim Iraqi authority, a senior US official said yesterday.

While the US and UK will seek United Nations endorsement of an “appropriate post-conflict administration”, US officials made it clear the UN would have no political authority in postwar Iraq and its role would be mainly humanitarian.

The international community is also expected to help pick up the bill.

Marc Grossman, under-secretary of state, said Gen Franks would be supported by Jay Garner, head of the Pentagon’s new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, but he declined to confirm reports that Gen Franks would hold the position of interim civilian administrator. Mr Garner’s job, he said, was to show the benefits of reconstruction to the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi interim authority would be established “as quickly as possible” from Iraqis inside and outside the country and “little by little” it would become responsible for governing Iraq as ministries were handed over, Mr Grossman said. It was not possible to predict how long it would take to restore for full sovereignty.

Statements by US officials have revealed the determination of the Bush administration to exert full and immediate authority over Iraq, while keeping options open in the long term.

“Iraqi democracy will have to be defined by the Iraqi people,” Mr Grossman said. Answering a question, he said he hoped that one of the first decisions of a new Iraqi government would be to recognise the state of Israel.

A team of former US ambassadors and senior defence and intelligence officials are being recruited to serve as “advisers” in Iraqi ministries amid continuing debate between the Pentagon and State Department over how much autonomy to grant the interim Iraqi authority.

A senior administration official who discussed reconstruction plans yesterday said that the rapid establishment of a central bank, a government budget and sound economic policies to keep inflation under control would be a priority.

Pointing to what he called the “great success” of previous transition efforts in Afghanistan, the official said the US Treasury would be likely to operate as a consultant to any interim government, in concert with other international groups. He said the Treasury had already begun provisional assignment of personnel.

Iraq currently uses three currencies: the “Saddam” dinar, a currency with Mr Hussein’s likeness used in most parts of the country; the “Swiss” dinar, used mostly in the northern Kurdish region and, to a more limited but growing extent, the US dollar.

The Saddam dinar has lost roughly 40 per cent of its value since October, trading – as of yesterday – at around 3,000 to the dollar. The “Swiss” dinar trades at around eight to $1.

The official said the US would leave it to Iraqis and an interim authority to decide on a currency.

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