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Handpicked Iraqi Occupation Interior Minister Quits

Nuri Badran said bitterly that he was quitting because U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer had criticized his police forces privately and because he, Badran, thought Bremer wanted a Sunni rather than a Shiite in the job.

"Bremer told me they nominated a Shiite name as minister of defense and that we cannot have two Shiite ministers in the interior and defense positions, because this would disrupt the balance in the administration of the country," Badran said at a news conference.

"I asked him what the solution would be. He said, 'You have to give up the position.' "

Badran added: "I was forced to do it."

"We have trained police officers and we have been training investigators and I have been really impressed. But we cannot maintain security all over the country," Badran, 51, told a roomful of stunned, mostly Iraqi reporters as he walked off the job, before telling his boss, Bremer: "I hope that God will protect this country and all the people of Iraq."
Nuri Badran
Nuri Badran
Senior Iraqi occupation official quits post

By Carol Rosenberg
Knight Ridder Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq The U.S. occupation force's handpicked Iraqi interior minister abruptly resigned yesterday, leaving the U.S.-led administration without a Baghdad bureaucrat to oversee the country's new and embattled police force.

Nuri Badran said bitterly that he was quitting because U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer had criticized his police privately and because he, Badran, thought Bremer wanted a Sunni rather than a Shiite in the job.

Coming on the edgy eve of the first anniversary of Baghdad's fall, it was the first resignation of a senior Iraqi occupation official, and added to a sense of disarray as the coalition battles Sunni Muslim guerrillas and Shiite Muslim militiamen.

"We have trained police officers and we have been training investigators and I have been really impressed. But we cannot maintain security all over the country," Badran, 51, told a roomful of stunned, mostly Iraqi reporters as he walked off the job, before telling his boss, Bremer: "I hope that God will protect this country and all the people of Iraq."

Since Saturday, Shiite militiamen have overrun dozens of Iraqi police posts from Baghdad's Sadr City slum to the southern city of Basra. Other Iraqi police officers disappeared rather than intervene in the killings and mutilations of four U.S. security contractors March 31 in the Sunni Triangle city of Fallujah.

The episodes have cast a harsh spotlight on the coalition's estimated 72,000-strong Iraqi police force, which is being reconstituted with U.S. money and training.

But American officials have mostly been sympathetic to the police, who've suffered more than 350 deaths as they work with the U.S.-led coalition to restore law and order.

Bremer and Governing Council President Massoud Barzani thanked Badran for his service in a joint statement and said the post would be filled soon. "We regret Minister of Interior Nuri Badran's decision to resign. He has served with skill and courage in a difficult position at a difficult time."

According to Badran, a Shiite Muslim, Bremer told him Wednesday that Shiites could not head both the interior and defense ministries. Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi, another Shiite, was sworn in as defense minister yesterday morning before members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

"Bremer told me they nominated a Shiite name as minister of defense and that we cannot have two Shiite ministers in the interior and defense positions, because this would disrupt the balance in the administration of the country," Badran said at a news conference.

"I asked him what the solution would be. He said, 'You have to give up the position.' "

Badran added: "I was forced to do it."

A second minister, Abdul-Basit Turki, reportedly resigned yesterday, but it was not clear whether his departure was related to the interior minister's.

Bremer has been trying to build a Cabinet with a balance among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in this country where the long-suppressed Shiites are the majority.

In that light, his choice of Badran's brother-in-law, Alawi, as defense minister made sense because it put a Sunni in charge of the military and a Shiite in control of the police.

The immediate effect of Badran's resignation wasn't clear.

A senior coalition military official said that with Iraq's police force now under the coalition umbrella, the resignation should have no short-term impact.

In the long term, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity, "Iraq needs an Iraqi interior minister to do its job."

In an interview last month, Badran, who held one of the key internal-security portfolios, told Reuters he did not think his ministry was ready to take over responsibility for security after June 30.

The United States plans to hand sovereignty back to an Iraqi government on that date, officially ending the occupation.

Iraqi ministries will then be solely responsible for running their portfolios, but the United States will still have advisers at a senior level in most ministries and more than 130,000 foreign troops will remain in Iraq.

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