US orders extra security for Iraq's Governing Council

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The Independent Online

Even as the United Nations voted to welcome Iraq's Governing Council yesterday the United States was already increasing the intense security surrounding it.

Paul Bremer, the US's civilian administrator for Iraq, has deployed 120 new security personnel to guard the 25 members of the council appointed by the Americans to help run its occupation.

The council members are almost never seen in public. They meet behind closed doors in a building set back half a mile from the road. No one is allowed in unless they are met by a council member.

The Americans are presenting the tight security as an effort to protect the council from Saddam's loyalists and foreign militants that the US claims are now slipping into Iraq. But the reality is that the Governing Council needs protection from the ordinary Iraqi people they are supposed to "govern" as much as from anyone else. "If Ahmed Chalabi [the member of the council most often singled out for loathing by Iraqis] walked down the street without security guards, the people might kill him," said one Iraqi.

Mr Chalabi is wanted in Jordan for his role in a multimillion-dollar fraud.

The Americans were disappointed that UN did not vote to give the Governing Council full recognition, but they hope the vote to "welcome" the council will at least give it some legitimacy.

On the streets, it has none. Salman Hatem, a trader at Baghdad's book market, said: "We want the Americans to go and take the Governing Council with them."

The council has its own problems. First it was bogged down in squabbles about who would be leader. Now the council appointed by Mr Bremer is arguing over who gets which ministerial portfolio. And the people he chose have infuriated Iraqis. "We want people from inside Iraq, who were suffering like us," said Qais Atta in Sadr City.

* The British officer killed in a bomb attack on Thursday was named yesterday as Captain David Martyn Jones, 29, of the 1st Queen's Lancashire Regiment. He died when an ambulance was blown up near Basra. Two other soldiers suffered shrapnel wounds.

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