July 12, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawer threatened Monday to use a "very sharp sword" to fight insurgents threatening the security of the country, a day after three U.S. soldiers died in attacks north of Baghdad.
Also Monday, France and Iraq restored diplomatic relations that were severed before the Gulf War 13 years ago.
Al-Yawer spoke two weeks after the United States handed sovereignty over to an interim Iraqi government. The handover, however, has not quelled the violence that has wracked the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime nearly 15 months ago.
Foreign and local insurgents have launched numerous attacks in Iraq in an effort to force coalition forces to leave and to thwart the country's postwar reconstruction. The attacks have killed scores of U.S. troops and hundreds of Iraqi civilians.
"Terrorism isn't just killing and blowing up bombs, whoever threatens the ordinary life of the people is a terrorist," al-Yawer told reporters. "We have a very sharp sword ready for anyone who threatens the security of this country."
Al-Yawer, who was meeting with Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan and National Guard Brig. Gen. Muther al-Rashardi, said the roughly 160,000 coalition forces led by the United States were required to stay here to fight the insurgents, but violent groups should not use this as an excuse to continue attacks.
"Those who claim they are resisting the occupation, the occupation is over now," he said. "We want to tell anyone who wants to threaten the security of this country: 'Enough,' I say, 'Enough. Stop.'"
Security officials also sought to reassure Iraqis they were trying to restore order.
Al-Rashardi said the national guard has divided the capital, Baghdad, into eight sectors to make it easier to control.
"We have very big plans to follow this up," Shaalan said. "We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for our people."
Al-Yawer, a prominent Sunni whose position is largely ceremonial, said the government planned to announce an amnesty soon for some of the insurgents.
Al-Yawer appealed to insurgents to accept the amnesty and lay down their weapons.
"This is your last chance, otherwise there will be the sword," he said.
Meanwhile, Iraq and France, which opposed the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam, restored diplomatic relations that were severed 13 years ago during the Gulf War. The countries plan to exchange ambassadors as soon as possible, the French Foreign Ministry said Monday.
"The two governments are convinced this decision will contribute to closer ties between France and Iraq and will intensify exchanges to the greater benefit of the two countries," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The restoration of ties took effect Monday, according to Mohammed al-Haj Mahmoud, undersecretary for legal affairs at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.
France has turned down American requests for military help in quelling the insurgency, but expressed willingness to help train Iraqi security forces.
Violence continued across Iraq.
Gunmen killed Abd el-Oun Hassan, the head of the Musayyib office of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the largest Shiite parties, in a drive-by shooting south of the capital Sunday night, police officials said Monday.
Insurgents Sunday also killed three U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi civilian in separate attacks north of Baghdad.
Also Sunday, insurgents fired mortar rounds at the Abu Ghraib prison, the center of a scandal involving alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. guards. One person was injured.
The attack was the sixth by insurgents on the facility since a mortar attack on in April killed 22 Iraqi detainees and wounded over 100, the military said.
Iraqi insurgents who have threatened to kill a Filipino hostage gave the Philippines two more days to agree to withdraw all its troops from Iraq, officials in Manila said Monday.
The Iraqi Islamic Army-Khaled bin Al-Waleed Corps said it would kill truck driver Angelo dela Cruz, 46, Sunday night if the government did not give in to its demand for an early withdrawal. But government officials said the group had extended the deadline until Tuesday, even though the Philippines said its 51 soldiers and police would leave Aug. 20 as scheduled.
"This is a time when hope and optimism are particularly important to all of us," Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas told ABS-CBN TV from Dubai, where she was accompanying dela Cruz's wife and brother en route to Amman, Jordan.
Riot police in Manila broke up a demonstration Monday by hundreds of left-wing protesters demanding the withdrawal of the Philippine force here.
A militant deadline for two other hostages - Bulgarian truck drivers held by a separate group demanding the release of all Iraqi detainees - expired Saturday morning. The militants had threatened to execute the Bulgarians if the U.S. military did not release all Iraqi detainees by the deadline.
At least one Bulgarian diplomat traveled to Iraq to help win the release of the hostages, a diplomat familiar with the talks said while speaking on condition of anonymity. The diplomat's exact plans were not revealed.