Iraqi general issues US with ultimatum

An Iraqi general has issued US occupying forces in Iraq with an ultimatum that if demobilised soldiers are not paid by next Monday, they will take up arms against the US army.

    Former Iraqi soldiers are
    demanding fairer treatment

    Addressing a group of sacked officers in central Baghdad, former general Saheb al Mussawi demanded that the American administartion start paying wages immmediately.

    "We demand the speedy establishment of a government, the return of security, the rehabilitation of public institutions and the payment of wages to all soldiers."    

    "If our demands are not respected, next Monday will mark the date of the break between the Iraqi army and people on one side and the occupiers on the other," he said in reference to US-led occupation troops.


    Demobilised Iraqi soldiers have stepped up their protests against the US decision to offer them just a single severance payment.

    Concern is growing that the large number of jobless young men on the streets may lead to large-scale disorder.


    The US civilian occupation administration headed by Paul Bremer announced on Friday that Iraq's army and vast security apparatus, along with the defence and information ministries, had all been abolished. 

    "All soldiers and their families will protest peacefully in Baghdad and other towns on Monday from 10 am local time," al Mussawi said.    


    The protesting band of officers carried banners saying "Better to have the throat slit than revenues confiscated. The Iraqi army demands its rights!", and "The Iraqi army is the army of the people and the nation!"


    "Death, death so Iraq can live!" they chanted.


    Another Iraqi officer, former colonel Ahmed Abdullah, said that "If our position is not settled, we threaten to take up arms."


    The US has been trying to prepare
    an alternative police force that
    will restore order to Iraq

    "We are soldiers used to combat and we have volunteers for martyrdom," warned former lieutenant colonel Ziad Khalaf.


    UN concerned


    Ramiro Lopes da Silva, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq, told journalists that the United Nations was drawing up a plan to rehabilitate jobless soldiers.


    "We have to come up with something simple to absorb a potential source of destabilisation," da Silva said.


    "If not, we reinforce the lawlessness and will raise banditry not only in Baghdad but in rural areas," he said.


    According to Nagib al Salhi, secretary general of the opposition movement of free officers and civilians, the Americans have set up an initiative to find jobs for all demobilised military personnel.    


    "While waiting, the United States should immediately pay salaries to the officers," Salhi said.


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