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Last Updated: Monday, 7 April, 2003, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Iraq's interim administrator
By Adam Curtis
BBC News Online

General Jay Garner has been showered with fanciful titles following his appointment to his new role in life.

President-designate, viceroy, regent and pro-consul - these are exotic and misleading descriptions of his new job - Director of the Pentagon's new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq.

General Jay Garner
Garner is said to be a good listener
The task the retired military man from Florida has undertaken is to lead a post-war Iraqi civil administration now that Saddam Hussein's regime is over.

He has been put in charge of short-term humanitarian assistance, starting the work of rebuilding damaged infrastructure and preparing the ground for a civil administration - the Iraqi Interim Authority.

He is, in short, responsible for creating a US vision of democracy in Baghdad.

And he has already set to work, hosting the first US-brokered meetings of Iraqi representatives to discuss the future of the country.

Oficials say they expect to see a "rolling transition" from Mr Garner's administration to the interim authority.

Time frame

Hand-picked by his old friend, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he has given himself just three months to complete the job.

Few believe this to be a realistic time frame.

For a start, there are disagreements within the Bush administration about who should be given pride of place on the interim authority - Iraqis from inside the country or exiles like Ahmed Chalabi.

The US has also still to resolve deep differences with its allies over what responsibilities the interim authority should have - and what role the United Nations should play in post-war Iraq.

The 64-year-old former three-star general is likely to come under fierce pressure, both internationally and internally, as he works to purge Iraq of Baath Party loyalists and create the conditions for some form of democracy.

Jay Garner says farewell to a Kurdish guerrilla in 1991
Garner won respect of the Iraqi Kurds
Suspicion and hostility towards any form of foreign rule - however short-term - will certainly run deep in the Arab world.

However, supporters of the general say he has considerable credentials for the job.

Friends say he is a good listener who does not believe he has a monopoly on the truth.

He also has a history of involvement in the region.

Missile expert

A Vietnam veteran, Jay Garner specialised in missile systems and, during the first Gulf War, supervised the deployment of Patriot missile batteries.

After the war, he took charge of Operation Provide Comfort - the resettlement of thousands of Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq.

Officials say he combined vision with a practical ability to get things done.

The results were visible in the widespread admiration and support he won from the local population.

By 1994, he had become commander of the US Space and Strategic Defense Command - then assistant chief of staff until his retirement in 1997.

Patriot missile battery
Patriot missiles have been used to defend Kuwait
He is closely associated with the group of hawks led by Donald Rumsfeld, and is reported to have been involved in formulating the US national missile defence system - the so-called Son of Star Wars programme.

After his retirement, he became president of the weapons contractor SY Coleman, which specialises in missile systems.

These include the Patriot missiles which have been widely deployed again in Iraq, and the Arrow defence system that has been sold to Israel.

He has close ties with conservative Israeli groups, attracting criticism when he backed a statement in 2000 by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs praising the Israeli army for showing what it called "remarkable restraint" in the face of the Palestinian uprising.

These links have fuelled Arab suspicions that Washington has been more concerned with bolstering Israel than with liberating Iraq.

Jay Garner will have earned a whole new collection of plaudits if he manages to assuage those doubts in the short time he has allowed himself.

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