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Powell Makes Surprise Iraq Visit

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, left, stands alongside Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer, right, as they address the media at the Iraqi government headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday July 30, 2004. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made an unannounced trip to Baghdad early Friday for talks with top Iraqi officials.(AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)
AP
Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer said Friday after meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell that rebel forces have been increasing violent attacks recently because they realize they have no chance of winning.

"The bad guys, the army of the darkness, are getting more helpless and hopeless. That's why they are stepping up these things. Time and the place is on our side," al-Yawer said.

Meanwhile, fighting between U.S. forces and Iraqi insurgents in the turbulent city of Fallujah killed some 13 people, officials said, while a kidnapped truck driver was given just hours to live unless the company he works for pulls out of the country.

In other developments:

  • One of the highest-ranking officers to die in Iraq has been killed. Lt. Col. David Greene, a 39-year-old reservist, died when the helicopter he was flying on a mission Wednesday took ground fire. The co-pilot landed the two-seat Cobra. Greene was a native of North Carolina who lived in Vermont. He is survived by a wife and children.
  • Villagers in northern India briefly detained 37 foreign tourists, most of them British, to protest the kidnapping of three Indian workers in Iraq, police said Friday. The tourists were stopped Thursday night near the village of Santoshgarh, the home region of two of the three Indians who are among seven truck drivers being held hostage. The tourists — 22 Britons, two South Koreans, a Japanese, an American, a Canadian, two Swiss, two Poles, a Dutch citizen, three Tibetans and two others of unknown nationality — had to stay in the buses until police reached the scene Friday morning.
  • The goal of Jordanian car dealer Mahmoud Khazaaleh's captors was much simpler than trying to influence government policy in far away capitals, he told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. They took his watch, a gold ring and $8,000 dollars he'd earned from selling a car earlier that day and freed him more than a month later after he came up with $4,000 more. Amid the chaos of postwar Iraq, such kidnappings for money are common. Khazaaleh, 51, said he won't work in Iraq again.
  • U.S. authorities in Baghdad spent hundreds of millions of Iraqi dollars without keeping good enough records to show whether they got some services and products they paid for, government investigators said. The agency's defenders say it did the best it could given the pressure of operating in a war zone and trying to get reconstruction going quickly.

    Powell made his unannounced visit to Baghdad Friday. The visit gives the secretary of state a chance for on-the-ground briefings from American and Iraqi officials, reports CBS News Correspondent Elaine Cobbe. On his arrival, he was briefed by the new U.S. ambassador, John Negroponte, and by American generals, who have been handing over more and more security operations to Iraqi forces.

    He is the highest ranking American official to visit since Iraq's interim government took power on June 28, and is his third to Baghdad since the ouster of President Saddam Hussein.

    In brief remarks after his half-hour meeting with al-Yawer, Powell said the two countries are facing big challenges which they are determined to overcome.

    Powell came here two days after a terrorist bombing killed at least 70 Iraqis northeast of Baghdad. There also has been a sharp increase in attacks on foreigners, including beheadings.

    Al-Yawer expressed confidence the violence will not deter Iraq from electing a transitional government in January.

    "We are working around the clock to make sure we are on time," he said.

    On Friday, Dr. Salim Ibrahim at Fallujah General Hospital said he believed some 13 Iraqis were killed and 14 others wounded during fierce overnight fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents in Fallujah, west of Baghdad. Ibrahim could not give an exact count of the dead, because many of their bodies had been torn up in bombings.

    Witnesses reported hearing more than 60 mortar rounds fired toward the eastern edge of the city, where Americans are based, and planes flying overhead. U.S. Marines suffered no casualties.

    The military said the fighting began when insurgents attacked a joint patrol of Marines and Iraqi troops with gunfire, mortars and rocket propelled grenades. The troops responded with gunfire, tank fire and aircraft bombing raids, which hit a building the insurgents had fled to, the military reported.

    Fallujah has been a focal point of resistance to the U.S. occupation. U.S. Marines pulled back from the city after besieging it for three weeks in April.

    One insurgent group linked to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said Thursday it had kidnapped a Somali truck driver and would behead him if his Kuwaiti company did not stop working in Iraq.

    Another group threatened to behead one of seven foreign truck drivers it was holding in 24 hours if its string of demands, including a pullout by their company, were not met. That deadline was to expire Friday.

    The kidnappers, calling themselves "The Holders of the Black Banners," say they are keeping seven foreign truck drivers hostage — three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian. A video broadcast Thursday on Al-Arabiya television showed a masked man pointing a rifle at one of the hostages, who was wearing an orange garment similar to ones worn by previous foreign hostages who were killed.

    The truck drivers work for Kuwait's largest transportation firm, KGL.

    Militants have kidnapped more than 70 foreigners here in recent months in an effort to push countries out of the coalition, deter others from joining and disrupt reconstruction efforts.

    The national conference, which had been scheduled to start Saturday, appeared to be far behind schedule even before the two-week delay was announced. No venue had been disclosed and there were no outward signs in Baghdad of preparations for the 1,000-person gathering.

    Conference organizers insisted they were ready to start, but agreed to the postponement at the request of U.N. officials, who wanted time to encourage wider participation and prepare for the meeting.