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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Jordan Times - 15th June 2003 '113 killed in US bid to crush Iraqi resistance' BAGHDAD (AFP) ‹ The US army's ongoing bid to mop-up resistance in northern Iraq has left at least 113 dead this week, according to US and Iraqi sources, as a top Iraqi politician warned that attacks would continue until local people are given more power. US forces killed 82 combatants at a desert training camp at Sahl, near the border with Syria, a mosque imam from a neighbouring village told AFP. The dead included at least one non-Iraqi, said Sheikh Gharbi Abdul Aziz, imam of the main mosque at Rawa, a few kilometres from Sahl. He said he had taken part in the burial of the 82 bodies after fighting erupted Thursday at dawn at the suspected extremist training camp. The US military had reported killing 27 Iraqis after clashes broke out late Thursday when a US 4th Infantry Division armoured patrol came under rocket propelled grenade attack near Balad, about 80 kilometres northeast of Baghdad. Four other Iraqis died in Dhuluiya during a hunt for "Chemical Ali," Hassan Al Majid, a cousin of Saddam, witnesses told AFP. Fighting this week ‹ the most intense since US President George W. Bush declared on May 1 that major combat was over ‹ has been concentrated in areas north of Baghdad, where many people still express sympathy for the regime of Saddam Hussein, which was ousted by US-led coalition forces in April. US troops launched their operations from Sunday across north-central Iraq after taking a spate of casualties from armed groups in recent weeks, but Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi warned Washington that it is making a mistake by refusing to give Iraqis more authority over their own country. Chalabi told The Washington Post in an interview published Saturday that the decision to limit Iraqi influence could heighten opposition to the US-led occupation. He criticised the White House decision not to grant immediate responsibilities to Iraqis or allow them to choose members of a council designed to advise the occupation authorities, according to the report. "We have to open up an Iraqi political process immediately," Chalabi said. He said an advisory group selected by Iraq's US administrator Paul Bremer would not be more representative than one which Iraqis themselves could create. Chalabi said the perception of US occupation "needs to be rectified" and argued that Bush's administration should tap into the "enormous energy" of Iraqis by establishing a 25,000-member Iraqi security force, the Post reported. Bremer, meanwhile, vowed Saturday to put a stop to meddling by Iraq's neighbours as he launched the first of a series of meetings aimed at engaging moderate traditional leaders in the Iranian-influenced Shiite Muslim south. Bremer did not identify which countries he was referring to and said there was more than one. But the venue of his comments, in the town of Hilla in the Shiite heartland of south-central Iraq, suggested he was referring primarily to neighbouring Iran, whose strong influence over the majority Shiite population is bitterly opposed by Washington. "We are aware of interference in Iraq by some of its neighbours," Bremer told an audience of around a dozen leading tribal sheikhs in the provincial capital 100 kilometres south of Baghdad. "I believe it is not in the interests of the Iraqi people. You can be sure that I take very seriously the authority that the president has given to me to make sure that it stops." Even though Shiite central and southern Iraq has remained largely free of the attacks that have plagued US troops in Sunni regions west and north of Baghdad, the coalition has stepped up its rhetoric against Iran. It has also sought in recent weeks to find alternative leaders to the main Shiite factions which found refuge in Tehran during Saddam's rule. Saturday's visit by Bremer to Hilla was his second to the region in just six days as he has sought out moderate clerics and tribal sheikhs to bring into the political process. A senior oil ministry official, meanwhile, said damage to the oil pipeline between Iraq and Turkey, the main export route from the country's northern fields, could be repaired within two days. Residents in the village of Makhoul, near the northern city of Kirkuk, said the pipeline was attacked on Thursday, the same day Iraq awarded its first postwar oil contracts in preparation for the relaunch of exports. US Central Command (Centcom) said Saturday that US troops killed an Iraqi and wounded seven others when they tried to escape from the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad. The seven injured Iraqis, including two in critical condition, were evacuated to a US field hospital for treatment. A prisoner was killed in similar circumstances at the Baghdad International Airport detention centre on Thursday, Centcom said. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that about 1,000 Iraqis have been detained by coalition troops in the Baghdad area alone. Near the northern city of Mosul, an Iraqi arms dump exploded, killing three people at Al Hadhr, witnesses said. Three local men died in the blast on Thursday, said the witnesses who did not know if the explosions were accidental or deliberate. Sunday, June 15, 2003 _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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