Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Surrenders to American ForcesBy Jane Perlez and John Kifner
THE NEW YORK TIMES -- Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi deputy prime minister who often served as the public face of Saddam Hussein's government, surrendered to American forces on Thursday, U.S. officials said.
Aziz, who had been in hiding since the fall of Baghdad, is one of the few Iraqi leaders widely recognizable in the West because of his history as a diplomat at the United Nations.
As American troops searched for other survivors of the fallen Iraqi government, the American administrator of Iraq, Jay Garner, announced that an interim Iraqi government would be in place next week.
In his announcement, the administrator, a retired lieutenant general, declined to specify how the interim body would be chosen. He did, however, make a point of saying that Ahmad Chalabi ’65, the Iraqi exile who arrived in the capital before Garner and has been asserting himself in the last 10 days, was not the coalition's official candidate.
Despite Garner’s assurances, the political situation in the capital and throughout the country was murkier than ever.
Political unrest simmered in the Kurdish areas in the north, where Arabs were expelled from their homes by Kurds, and in the southern city of Kut, a Marine command post was shot at in two incidents. No one was hurt, according to a military spokesman, but the shootings followed a stand-off on Wednesday between protesters who support a local ayatollah, and a convoy of 20 U.S. military vehicles.
In the capital on Thursday night, bursts of automatic weapons fire --much more than on other recent nights -- sounded through the city as darkness fell.
The man who had appointed himself mayor of Baghdad, Mohamed Mohsen Zobeidi, took little heed of Garner's presence on Thursday. A day after he was brusquely rebuffed by the chief American military officer here, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, Zobeidi was nonetheless the center of attention at a gathering of hundreds of people at a tribal sheikh's luxurious villa in the southern Daura district of the capital.
Of the new government body, Garner said: “It will have Iraqi faces on it. It will be governed by the Iraqis.” Of Chalabi, he said: “Mr. Chalabi is a fine man. He is not my candidate; he is not the candidate of the coalition.”
Despite Garner’s words about Chalabi, he was having dinner with him on Thursday night.
One of the main arguments in Washington, where the details of a new Iraqi government are being debated, is the role of Chalabi and whether he should be granted a prominent position or one alongside many others.