We will stay not one day longer than necessary
Lawrence Smallman, Al Jazeera with agency inputs
The US-led interim administration for Iraq needs to leave Kuwait and hurry to Baghdad, said Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi opposition leader. But then it will have to hurry home to the US, according to other members of the Iraqi National Congress who expect control to be handed over in weeks rather than months or years.
Retired US General Jay Garner, the head of the interim team, plans to have his operation in the Iraqi capital within seven to 10 days, a US official familiar with Garner's operation said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Garner's whereabouts were unimportant and that his team was working on rebuilding the country and helping to bring in aid and restore electricity in the southern province of Basra.
"The United States is not going to stay in that country and occupy it," Rumsfeld said.
"Where is General Garner now?" Chalabi asked the crowds listening to him on Wednesday in the southern city of Nasiriyah, with thousands of people cheering the collapse of Saddam's government.
"The US troops have defeated Saddam militarily. That was never a problem," the opposition leader said. "The issue is the Baath party and the remnants of the party who will continue to pose a threat. And those people will continue to have some influence as long as there is no electricity, no security and no water."
Ahmed al-Haboubi, a former minister in the government toppled in the 1968 Baath Party coup, said celebrations like those in Baghdad should wait until a democratic government replaces Saddam Hussein.
Together with many liberal-minded Iraqi exiles Al-Haboubi, elected five days ago to the leadership of a new Iraqi opposition group, shares a common concern that the long struggle against Saddam Hussein will be in vain if his regime is replaced by opportunists who would only follow the US administration's agenda.
Doubts are already emerging over just how short the initial, US-managed transitional period will be and whether it will be a multilateral exercise. Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defence Secretary, has already hinted that the US administration will remain in place for at least six months, giving rise to concern among the Iraqi opposition that the time frame is too long and that the UN will be excluded.
Garner's team plans to organise humanitarian assistance, rebuild infrastructure destroyed by years of war and economic sanctions, and start building a democratic government.
However, as the Kurds demonstrated after the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqis are quite capable of rebuilding their own country, according to Dr. Leith Kubbah, President of the Iraq National Group.
"All serious political players in Iraq and amongst the Iraqis in exile have real vested interests in seeing a successful transition because if they fight over power ... prior to setting the rules on how to get power or share power, then this will lead to a fight and a fight will lead to dictatorship," said Mr Kubbah.
Using Kurdistan as an example of how Iraqis are quite capable of organising their own affairs, he confirmed that he would never accept a position in Jay Garner's team and expected a US transitional administration to last "a few weeks" and suggests ways in which a broad based assembly could be quickly organised.
Dr. Kubbah would not speculate as to what would happen should the administration last months or years, other than to express concern for the stability of Iraq in the future.
"I would like to say two things. Number one, a legitimate process for selecting, or electing, leaders is needed with clear qualifications as to who should be in that public position. Number two, Iraqis, after all they have suffered, deserve to get the best, and there ought to be a minimum standard of who holds this position."