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Thursday, June 26

Iraqi people paying for Saddam loyalists' attacks

By Christian Lowe | Marine Corps Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Rogue elements of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Baath Party are to blame for a recent rash of attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqi infrastructure, some of them in this capital city, where residents have endured several days of blackouts, according to the top U.S. administrator in Iraq.

Paul Bremer, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority, said Saddam loyalists recently sabotaged the main power line from Bayji north of Tikrit to Baghdad, resulting in blackouts and water shortages for most city residents over the past three days.

``They are waging their campaign not against the coalition, but against the Iraqi people,'' Bremer said at a news conference Wednesday. ``They're making it harder for the life of the average Iraqi citizen. They do not share the free Iraq vision.''

Throughout the city, residents wait in long lines to purchase ice to keep their food from spoiling in their homes amid the sweltering summer heat. On Thursday, the mercury rose close to 110 degrees.

Only those homes or buildings with generators have power, but the price of a household generator - about $600 on average - is out of reach for most residents.

Bremer said the provisional authority is doing its utmost to resolve the blackout problems.

Before a special Iraqi security force is formed to guard key industrial facilities, such as power plants, oil pipelines and electrical transfer stations, U.S. and coalition forces will do their best to prevent sabotage and nab the culprits after a strike has occurred.

The number of U.S. patrols in and around the city has increased 400 percent since May, rising to an average of 1,200 a day in an effort to prevent such attacks, Bremer explained.

But even restoring basic services in this war-ravaged nation is a daunting project. The provisional authority already has begun spending Iraqi funds frozen since Operation Desert Storm for short-term fixes, Bremer said.

Getting the country's infrastructure to full capacity, however, will take hundreds of millions of dollars and ``many, many years.''

``I can understand the people's impatience with the situation,'' Bremer said. ``I'm rather impatient myself. ... But we are doing everything we can with the monies from Iraq and the American taxpayer to move as quickly as we can to restore basic services."