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U.S. Postwar Plans Under Scrutiny

GENERIC George Bush war Iraq
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A meeting between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Northern Ireland on Monday may help determine what the postwar Iraqi government will look like.

Britain has urged a strong role for the United Nations in rebuilding Iraq.

But the flavor of the interim administration taking shape at Kuwait City's Hilton Beach Resort, where U.S. officials who will oversee the nation's transition to peace have set up shop, is distinctly American.

Jay Garner, a retired general who led humanitarian efforts to assist Iraqi Kurds after the 1991 Gulf War, is heading the U.S.-led interim administration.

Garner keeps a low profile, a reflection of how the United States still hasn't decided what the postwar government will look like.

Navy Capt. Nathan Jones, Garner's spokesman, said that Garner might spell out his intentions next week, but cautioned that the bigger decisions will be made in Washington.

The Bush administration has said it wants to turn power over to Iraqis as soon as possible, but there is no timetable and no obvious choice to lead the country.

While it has announced plans to quickly establish an "interim authority" of Iraqis on the ground, the administration has not said what that authority's responsibilities will be or how its members will be chosen.

But as it anticipates imminent victory in Iraq, the Bush administration is facing questions, criticism and the threatened rejection of significant parts of its plan for rebuilding the country, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The Post reports the secrecy surrounding the planning process and the lack of publicly released details has sparked discomfort across a broad, bipartisan spectrum in Congress and among other governments.

Meanwhile, Iraq's internal and exiled opposition warn that regular Iraqis may not support an administration run solely by the U.S. military.

"What we are hearing about now is not definite, but that they are planning to have military rule and use Iraqis as advisers," Ghassan al-Attiya, an independent opposition figure, said in a telephone interview from London.

"I hope that the experience with the war during the last two weeks will convince the Americans that winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people will not be enhanced by military rule," al-Attiya said. "This will backfire on those working with the United States."

On Friday, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "we will work with Iraqis, our coalition partners and international organizations to rebuild Iraq. We will leave Iraq completely in the hands of Iraqis as quickly as possible."

The foundation of the administration's postwar plan for Iraq is the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid, a Pentagon-based agency headed by Garner. The Post reports Garner plans to install American "civilian advisers" at the top of Iraqi government ministries and agencies.

Garner reports to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld through Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the head of the U.S. Central Command. Although the State Department's Agency for International Development and disaster relief organizations will handle much of the actual humanitarian and reconstruction work, the plan calls for them to answer to Garner, who will control their funding, the Post reports.

So far the Pentagon has refused requests from lawmakers to meet with Garner.

Top Republicans and Democrats have been critical of the highhanded treatment by the White House and the Defense Department on a range of fiscal issues, including Mr. Bush's emergency spending package, which contained money for postwar work.

The president asked for a $2.5 billion reconstruction fund to be appropriated to the White House itself, presumably to be distributed through the Pentagon.

The Post reports a memo prepared by senior GOP staff for the House Appropriations Committee noted that the arrangement would erect a "wall of executive privilege [that] would deny Congress and the Committee access to the management of the fund. Decision-makers determining the allocation … could not be called as witnesses before hearings, and most fiscal data would be beyond the Committee's reach."

Both the House and the Senate passed versions of the bill passed last week that would prevent the money from going to the Defense Department. "We had to do that," a senior House Democrat who is generally very supportive of the Pentagon told the Post. "It sends a message."

"We all admire the Department of Defense when they're doing the things they're best trained for," said Senate Appropriations Committee member Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). But there is "no consensus" for allowing the Pentagon to handle the reconstruction effort, "and we're the ones who have to come up with the money."

Meanwhile the White House continues to press for changes so that the Defense Department is designated as "the lead agency" for postwar operations.

Overseas, however, France, Germany, Russia and China, Security Council members who opposed the U.S.-British invasion, remain staunchly opposed to a U.S.-led postwar leadership role.

All issued statements on Friday saying that the United Nations is the only legitimate authority for supervising the rebuilding of Iraq.