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Iraq Minister Cites Threat of Hussein Loyalists

Outgoing Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, shown Dec. 11, said he believed al Qaeda's influence in Iraq was waning.
Outgoing Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, shown Dec. 11, said he believed al Qaeda's influence in Iraq was waning. "Now it's the Baathists," he said. (By Hadi Mizban -- Associated Press)

"We went through 35 years of persecution," he said. "There's a psychological theory that says victims follow the persecutor. But we shall take big steps to change this culture."

Discussing the spate of recent killings allegedly committed by men in police uniforms, including the slaying of two lawyers involved with Hussein's trial on crimes against humanity, Jabr described them as rogue reprisals conducted in response to terrorist attacks.

"Anyone can go to the store and buy a police uniform," he said. "These are not police."

During his final few weeks in office, he said, Interior Ministry forces are working through a newly compiled list of 16,000 former military and intelligence officers in an effort to "capture, neutralize or reform" them. "It doesn't mean all of them are terrorists," he added. "But we are checking them out."

Describing a previously undisclosed operation, Jabr said stepped-up police efforts had led to the near-capture three months ago of Izzat Ibrahim Douri, the top-ranking member of Hussein's inner circle, who is still at large. He said Interior Ministry forces tracked Douri from near the northern city of Tikrit as he traveled south for a meeting with other Baathists in Zubair, near the Kuwaiti border.

"We knew he was in the house of a well-known family in Zubair, but he must have become suspicious of being observed, so he left," Jabr said. "We missed him by four hours."

The elections conducted last week appear likely to return to power the Shiite religious parties that control the current government, including Jabr's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The minister said, however, that he would prefer a new job when the next government is formed.

In an election day op-ed article in The Washington Post about the future of Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad warned that the country's next security ministers should "be trusted by all communities and not come from elements of the population that have militias."

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