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Previous Officials Depart Iraq As Bush Overhauls Government

By Patrick E. Tyler


America’s new civilian administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, arrived in Baghdad on Monday as several members of the team of his predecessor, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, and Garner himself prepared to leave over the coming weeks in a sudden overhaul that has rattled Iraqi political leaders.

Massoud Barzani, who will play a critical role in the formation of the interim government in Iraq, said in an interview on Monday that the United States risked squandering its victory over Saddam Hussein by allowing chaos and anarchy to run unchecked in the country.

Barzani said he had been close to Garner ever since they worked together a decade ago when Iraq’s minority Kurds fled by the hundreds of thousands to the Turkish border region to escape the wrath of Saddam after an unsuccessful uprising following the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

“His departure will have a very negative effect,” Barzani said. “The rapid change of officials is not very helpful because we need focus.”

He said he was concerned that the ideological clashes in Washington over the U.S. role in post-war Iraq were hampering policy here. “We are paying the price for the political conflicts in Washington,” he said. “Time is of the essence, speed is of the essence -- we must get some form of government.”

Garner has yet to inform him of any plans to leave, Barzani said. He also expressed some concern about Bremer’s longtime association with former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, whom the Kurds blame for their betrayal in the intelligence wars between Iran and Iraq three decades ago.

Neither Garner nor Bremer, in brief remarks at the airport here, addressed the causes of the personnel changes reported by Bush administration officials over the weekend. One of Garner’s deputies, Barbara K. Bodine, was relieved of her duties on short notice, and the officials said that Garner himself would also depart in a few weeks. Several members of Garner’s staff, detailed to Iraq from diplomatic or other government jobs, are also returning to those posts over the next month.

Bremer is bringing a large contingent of new administrators, but Monday he gave no detailed assessment of the situation in Iraq or how he planned to reverse the deterioration in security.

“We will be in the process of discussing with appropriate people in Iraq a transition to an Iraqi government at a time line that still has to be determined,” Bremer said. Garner had set a timeline for a new government to emerge by the end of the month.

“We are not here as a colonial power,” Bremer said. “We are here to turn over” power to the Iraqi people “as quickly as possible.”