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Desperate Iraqis Clamor for Help as Powell Visits 

Sun Sep 14, 8:50 AM ET 

By Andrew Cawthorne

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Black-robed women wept for lost sons. Old men brandished death certificates with photos of bombed homes and scarred bodies. Jobless men begged for work.

As Secretary of State Colin Powell  visited the main U.S. headquarters in Baghdad Sunday, desperate Iraqis kept up a daily ritual at barbed wire barriers outside.

Knowledge that Powell was just a stone's throw away -- meeting Iraq 's U.S. governor Paul Bremer inside one of the former palaces of deposed President Saddam Hussein  -- heightened the clamor beyond the gates.

"He must be told that the Iraqi people have gained nothing from the American war. Now it is much worse than under Saddam," said Mushtaq Talib, 28.

Although he defected from Saddam's military in 1996, Talib was hoping to get hold of a stipend being paid to former soldiers in the now disbanded Iraqi army.

The problems and petitions on daily show outside the U.S. gates are a litany of Iraq's postwar woes.

Most people Sunday were either looking for work, information on detained loved ones, or compensation for war damage. Some simply moaned about the price of gasoline.

Nazhat Ibraheem brought her 7-year-old epileptic daughter Narjis Taha with her to illustrate why she needed work. "My husband is sick in bed, my daughter is very ill, I need to buy medicines urgently," she said, her daughter standing patiently beside her under the midday sun.

"Someone tell the American visitor (Powell) I need help."

"HELP ME, MR. POWELL" "I have been coming for five months, but no one listens," said Hamid Atiya, holding a photo of his brother Hussein Atiya, a former soldier in Saddam's elite Republican Guard who died when Baghdad fell in April.

"Yes, Saddam executed our brothers but at least he gave things as well as taking," said Atiya, who desperately wants a job and compensation to help look after his dead brother's children. "The Americans' democracy is a sham."

Hadi Taboor came with a local sheikh, thinking his presence would help him discover the fate of his nephew, Ahmed Abdul Salam, arrested a month ago by a joint American-Iraqi patrol on suspicion of looting.

"They've released the friends arrested with him, but he's still in jail, I don't understand it," Taboor said. "Tell Mr. Powell the Iraqi people do not deserve such suffering."

Soldiers told Taboor and the sheikh to move away.

"My son, my son, I have to see my son," screamed one woman, exhausting herself with cries and gesticulations to Iraqis working for a civil aid office of the Coalition Provisional Authority and American soldiers guarding the entrance.

"They arrested him and took him to the airport. I went to the airport, and they told me to come here," she said, too upset to explain why her son was detained.

CPA staff told her to go back to the airport.

The U.S. occupiers of Iraq say they cannot solve everybody's problems but insist they are trying their hardest to get a grip.

They know it is an overwhelming task.


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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