U.S. warns of increasing violence as transfer nears

WASHINGTON – Iraqi leaders will face increasing threats of violence as the June 30 transfer of political power nears, Bush administration officials said Sunday after two assassinations in Baghdad.

Iraq’s interim president also said tearing down the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, as President Bush has suggested, would be reactionary and a waste of money, and that Saddam Hussein would go on trial in the summer.

Insurgents and Hussein’s loyalists are stepping up efforts ahead “to shake the will” of the new government, the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi people, Bush’s national security adviser said.

“They’re not going to succeed,” Condoleezza Rice told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

The weekend assassinations “are very sad events when Iraqi patriots are gunned down by these traitors and by these terrorists,” Rice said. “And indeed, there will continue to be violence, because these are people who have no future in a free Iraq.”

Kamal al-Jarah, an Education Ministry official in charge of contacts with foreign countries and the United Nations, was killed Sunday outside his home.

On Saturday, an Iraqi deputy foreign minister, Bassam Salih Kubba, was killed as he was driving to work.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said “very brave and bold and courageous Iraqi leaders have stepped forward into positions of responsibility, and these murderers are trying to assassinate them, to undercut this new government.”

Even with U.S. troops and private contractors aiding Iraqi security forces, “It’s going to be a dangerous period,” Powell told “Fox News Sunday.”

The United States hopes that the establishment of a sovereign Iraqi government will undercut the insurgency, allowing security to improve so that balloting for an elected administration can be held in January.

Powell said “the real solution to the security problem” is for Iraqi forces to be trained quickly. The United States is working diligently to accomplish that, he said.

The new government will take control of Abu Ghraib, at the heart of the prisoner abuse scandal, but the prison will not be torn down, said the interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer said. Bush has suggested destroying it as “a fitting symbol of Iraq’s new beginning.”

“If we consider it’s a symbol of Saddam’s atrocities, Saddam used to torture people in each and every basement in Iraq, so that means we have to demolish all government entities. That’s unwise,” al-Yawer told ABC’s “This Week.”

“This is very reactionist. We are people that need every single dollar we have, in order to rebuild our country, instead of demolishing and rebuilding,” he said.

Al-Yawer said security is the main concern for Iraqis today.

“Without security, we cannot move on the election issue, nor development of the country, or reconstruction,” he told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

He, too, expects attacks to continue after the political handover.

“It’s going to be terrible for a while,” al-Yawer told NBC’s “Meet the Press.

“We expect that they will try to increase the incidents and the violence for a while, but we are committed, we are consistent and we are focused to make sure that we take necessary preparations in order to defuse the situation,” he said.

About 150,000 U.S. and other coalition troops will remain in Iraq after June 30 to help with security, under a resolution approved unanimously by the U.N. Security Council last week.

As for Hussein’s fate, al-Yawer said the United States would transfer custody of the former president after June 30, “given that we can make sure we can protect him” until a trial this summer. Hussein has been held in an undisclosed location since his Dec. 13 capture by U.S. forces.

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