Iraqi leader seeks support amid unrest

Kidnappings increasing as more countries look to disengage from Iraq

July 25, 2004|By Megan K. Stack | Megan K. Stack,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Struggling against an increasingly sophisticated kidnapping campaign, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi made a stark plea to an anxious international community yesterday: Don't abandon Iraq to militants.

"It is time for us to close ranks to fight terrorism," Allawi told reporters in Damascus on the Syrian leg of his get-acquainted swing through Arab capitals. "There is no way to budge to terrorists and give them what they want."

Pressure to disengage from Iraq - or stay away in the first place - is mounting. The Philippines bowed to insurgents' demands last week, pulling troops out of Iraq to save the life of a captured truck driver. And Egypt swore off the notion of sending soldiers or military officials into Iraq after insurgents kidnapped an Egyptian diplomat in Baghdad.

Even the United Nations, set to return to Iraq this month, now says that without a protection force, only a few representatives will be able to start work in the unstable country.

"For the U.N. to build up a larger presence, we are going to need the security arrangements envisioned by the resolution" endorsing Iraqi sovereignty, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday. "That is, a dedicated force protecting the U.N. staff and its facilities."

One violent month into Allawi's tenure as the U.S.-backed premier, Iraq's security flaws appear serious enough to drive the country deeper into international isolation.

Around the world, there is a growing sense of uncertainty over building relations with the new Iraq - how to help in building security and whether governments can risk intense anger at home by sending troops or officials into a volatile, politically contentious country.

The newly appointed U.N. envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, called security "the first priority, the second priority and the third priority."

The United Nations hasn't stationed staff in Iraq since its Baghdad office was bombed last August. Despite its goal of returning to Iraq as soon as this month, Annan said that only Qazi and a "small staff" will be able to enter Iraq next month.

Meanwhile, the kidnappings appear to be becoming more deliberate and personal. Allawi's brief appearance in Cairo last week - and Egypt's pledge to help Iraq fight insurgents - apparently inspired armed radicals to track down Egyptian diplomat Mohammed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb and kidnap him outside a mosque Friday.

Early yesterday, gunmen grabbed Raad Adnan, general director of Al-Mansour Contracting Co., in an audacious daylight operation in southeastern Baghdad.

The kidnappers, wearing police uniforms, set up a fake checkpoint in the Zaieuna neighborhood and stopped Adnan's car, taking him and his driver hostage, according to police Sgt. Ahmed Ismael. Adnan's driver was quickly released, Ismael said.

Also yesterday, in the volatile Anbar province west of Baghdad, a U.S. Marine died of wounds sustained during "security and stability operations" Friday, the military said.

Late Friday, saboteurs set off two explosions on an oil pipeline south of Samarra, police said yesterday.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Killed in Iraq

As of yesterday, 904 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations. Since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 761 U.S. soldiers have died.

Latest identifications

Army Pfc. Nicholas H. Blodgett, 21, Wyoming, Mich.; killed Wednesday by an explosive in Duluiyah, Iraq; assigned to the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, Schweinfurt, Germany.

Marine Lance Cpl. Mark E. Engel, 21, Centennial, Colo.; died Wednesday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio of wounds received July 6 in Iraq's Anbar province; assigned to 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Army Spc. Danny B. Daniels II, 23, Varney, W.Va.; killed Tuesday in a hostile attack in Baghdad, Iraq; assigned to the 630th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police Brigade, Bamberg, Germany.

Marine Staff Sgt. Michael J. Clark, 29, Leesburg, Fla.; killed Tuesday in Iraq's Anbar province; assigned to Combat Service Support Battalion 1, Combat Service Support Group 11, 1st Force Service Support Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Marine Cpl. Todd J. Godwin, 21, Zanesville, Ohio; died Tuesday of injuries received in a hostile attack in Iraq's Anbar province; assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Killed Monday in a mortar attack on their base in Iraq; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry, 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.:

Army Pfc. Charles C. Persing, 20, Albany, La.

Army Sgt. Dale T. Lloyd, 22, Watsontown, Pa.

Associated Press

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