Focus Shifts To Iraq's Future

IRAQ: A member of U.S. special forces collects weapons out of a house believed to belong to the Iraqi Ministry of Inteligence in Baghdad's district of Kazemiya, Tuesday April 15, 2003.
Representatives from Iraqi factions attended a meeting Tuesday to begin planning for a postwar government, while Iraqi citizens pleaded for law, order and water – now. With fighting all but over, U.S. troops remained busy hunting for illegal weapons and working to control major cities.

There were tentative signs of order returning to parts of Baghdad. In some neighborhoods, residents built roadblocks to establish control over their own streets. In the city center, protesters jostled with U.S. troops, appealing for help in restoring order and public services.

Tuesday's fighting was limited to short, sharp bursts of rifle fire as Americans tried to make the city a safer place. But the number of U.S. troops inside Iraq is still growing – now at 122,000 as the 4th Infantry Division moves in to relieve the Marines who control Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports the orders for another army division headed for Iraq have been cancelled as the U.S. moves into a post-war phase.

In other developments:

  • Abul Abbas, the Palestinian terrorist behind the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, has been captured in Baghdad, where he had been under the protection of Saddam Hussein's government, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
  • CBS News found dozens of Russian-made "Frog" surface-to-surface missiles in the center of Baghdad Tuesday, left behind by the fleeing Iraqi army. The U.S. Marines didn't get to the site where the missiles were found before CBS News Anchor Dan Rather and his crew left. By then Iraqis had taken on the dangerous job of cleaning up the ordinances themselves.
  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said U.S. forces shut down a pipeline used for illegal oil shipments from Iraq to Syria, but he could not assure that oil is not still flowing between those two countries.
  • U.S. defense officials said the Pentagon would pay rewards of up to $200,000 for information on the whereabouts of regime leaders.
  • French President Jacques Chirac phoned President Bush on Tuesday, seeking to repair the damage the war with Iraq did to their relationship. It was the first time they had talked in two months, since France opposed the U.S. resolution at the U.N. authorizing force in Iraq.
  • The Pentagon's latest American casualty count includes 128 dead and four missing. The British government says 30 British soldiers have died. Neither Iraq nor the coalition has released an estimate of Iraqi military casualties. Iraq says nearly 600 civilians have been killed and more than 4,000 wounded.

    Delegates from formerly exiled opposition groups and community leaders from within Iraq were brought together Tuesday near the biblical city of Ur – where believers hold that Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was born – to discuss the principles on which a new government would be based.

    But could a new Iraq be born here, too? If Tuesday's meeting was any indication, it won't be easy, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips.

    While dozens of representatives from Iraqi factions attended, others boycotted the meeting amid opposition to an interim authority to be established under the direction of Jay Garner, a retired U.S. general.

    There was some good news. A 13-point agreement was reached as a basis for a new government. Among them: that the government should be democratic; that it should be a federal system; that its leaders should be chosen by Iraqis and not imposed from outside; and that Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party should be dissolved and have no future role.

    White House envoy Zalmay Khalilzad assured the group the United States has "no interest, absolutely no interest, in ruling Iraq."

    In Washington, President Bush stopped short of a formal declaration of victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    "Today the world is safer, the terrorists have lost an ally, the Iraqi people are regaining control of their own destiny. These are good days for the history of freedom," he said.

    But Iraq's two largest cities, Baghdad and Basra, still lacked power, water and medical care. Half the medical clinics in Basra have been looted and the children are suffering from diarrhea, the aid group Doctors of the World said in Paris.

    A group calling itself the Gathering for Democracy issued printed statements urging fellow Iraqis to stop looting public facilities. Looters have pillaged everything from government offices to museums, even making off with archaeological treasures.

    In Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, U.S. Marines set up checkpoints to try to prevent any fugitive officials of the regime from escaping. The Marines briefly came under fire as they secured the airfield outside the Tigris River city, about 100 miles north of Baghdad. No U.S. casualties were reported.

    Infuriated residents complained to a reporter that the bridge into town had been blocked for days; many said they were hungry and sick, but U.S. forces would not let them go to a hospital across the river.

    "The Iraqi people want to go to their own parts of their territory — their own lands," one man yelled. "But the Americans are not letting them!"

    And in Kut, military officials said hundreds of protesters blocked Marines from entering city hall to meet a radical anti-American Shiite cleric who has declared himself in control.

    Right now, America's biggest beef is with Syria for allegedly serving as an escape hatch for members of Saddam's regime, including some of the 55 most wanted. On Tuesday, the U.S. exacted a measure of revenge by shutting off a pipeline that carried about 200,000 barrels of Iraqi oil a day to Syria.

    One Iraqi who got out through Syria is Jafar Jafar, the head of Iraq's nuclear program, who then went to the United Arab Emirates and turned himself in.

    He and Saddam's chief science adviser remain the highest-ranking members of the regime in custody. Both are sticking to their story that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, and U.S officials say they still have not uncovered hard evidence of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

    The science adviser has also told the U.S. that even without the war Saddam was losing his grip on power and would have been gone in three years anyway.