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Al-Jaafari asks U.N. to extend authorization for U.S. troops in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq—Iraq's prime minister asked the United Nations on Tuesday to extend its authorization for U.S. forces to stay in the country, underscoring the fragile hold of the newly elected government at a time of rising insurgent violence.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said his government would decide the role of American and other foreign troops, a particularly sensitive issue as the new government tries to establish its legitimacy among the Iraqi people and secure the country against an entrenched insurgency while depending heavily on the U.S. military.

Al-Jaafari said he'd like the U.N. Security Council to extend Resolution 1546, which authorizes the U.S. presence until June 8. He made his comments while addressing the Iraqi National Assembly.

"It is true that (the multinational forces) are not Iraqi forces but their task is to secure the country under the Iraqi will and Iraqi timetable," al-Jaafari said after the assembly session. "So if Iraqis choose, through their elected government, that they need extension (of Resolution 1546) in order to improve the security situation, the decision will be Iraqi."

Lt. Steve Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman, said everyone understood that American troops were here at the request of the new government. "We are here in partnership to help them win the war against terrorism," Boylan said.

More than 140,000 American service members are in the country.

Some members of the National Assembly were still reeling from the earlier detention of Mohsen Abdel Hamid, the secretary general for the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni Muslim political party. After ransacking his home and detaining and interrogating him for about 12 hours Monday, the U.S. military released him and called the detention a mistake.

The Iraqi government denounced Hamid's detention, saying it undermined efforts to include Sunnis in the political process.

During Tuesday's session, some members of the assembly said the coalition forces were overzealous and disrespectful of Iraqis, and conducted raids without the new government's approval. At times, the assembly members were passionate in their frustration with the troops.

"The involvement of the multinational forces in Iraqis' lives is excessive and unacceptable," said Rassim al-Awadi, who represents the Iraqi National Accord party. "All Iraqis should be respected by the multinational forces in Iraq."

Said Fraidoon Abdul Kadr, a Kurdish assembly member: "Our friends in the multinational forces bear the great responsibility of bringing peace. They should be aware of the Iraqis' dignity and what is important and holy to us."

Hamid said Tuesday that when the American forces arrived at his Baghdad home, they asked for him by name. During his detention, he said, the troops asked him general questions about topics including his party and terrorism.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said the political process must include Sunnis, the nation's largest minority sect and a group that's said it feels marginalized in the new government.

The National Assembly and al-Jaafari's government have appealed to the Sunnis—including Hamid—to help draft the nation's permanent constitution, which must be completed by Aug. 15, according to the interim governing document.

They also believe that including Sunnis will curtail the surge of violence that began after the newly elected officials announced the government April 28.

On Tuesday, Laith Kubba, al-Jaafari's spokesman, announced that the governor of Anbar—who'd been kidnapped earlier in May—was found dead after U.S. forces and insurgents battled in Rawah. He said they found the body a few days ago. Gov. Raja Nawaf Farhan al-Mahalawi had been snatched during an American offensive in al Qaim, a city that borders Syria and that U.S. officials think is an entry point for foreign fighters.

In addition, a truck bomb exploded as an Iraqi army patrol passed in the western city of Baqouba, killing two soldiers and wounding eight people, police said.


(Youssef reports for the Detroit Free Press. Knight Ridder Newspapers special correspondents Mohammed al Awsy, Alaa al Baldawy and Yasser Salihee contributed to this report.)


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.