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Last Updated:  Sunday, 13 April, 2003, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Iraqi 'free force' heads to Baghdad
A Free Iraqi Forces soldier in Nasiriya
Free Iraqi Forces plan to help coalition soldiers police cities
An Iraqi opposition leader has told the BBC that he will send fighters to help to restore order in the capital "very soon".

Ahmed Chalabi said looting and civil unrest had to be stopped immediately as part of measures to stop a downward spiral for Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

He told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme that the country needed to be rid of the remaining signs and trappings of the Baath Party - a process he called "de-Baathification".

Only then could Iraq and its people begin the process of rebuilding, he said.

Return 'welcomed'

Mr Chalabi, the head of the London-based Iraqi National Congress, was airlifted to the town of Nasiriya together with members of the Free Iraqi Forces by the United States.

He said the return of exiles had been welcomed.

"We are going to move to Baghdad with the Free Iraqi Forces to help stop this looting in complete co-operation and co-ordination with the United States," he told interviewer Peter Sissons.

"The population is very happy to see us here and we will move forward to other areas of Iraq, especially Baghdad, very soon."

He said three things were necessary to stop Iraq plunging deeper into chaos:

  • Leaders of the Iraqi opposition must be included fully in all discussion
  • There must be co-operation from the coalition to show the war was about liberation and not occupation
  • Basic services must be developed and aid provided so Iraqis can see and feel the difference now Saddam Hussein's reign is over

The ending of Saddam Hussein's power also had to be confirmed with the dismantling of his Baath Party apparatus.

"We must proceed with great speed and determination with the de-Baathication, we must uproot the Baath Party from the fabric of Iraqi society," he said.

Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi meets a sheikh in Nasiriya
Ahmed Chalabi says he and his followers have been welcomed throughout Iraq

"This does not mean killing or humiliating or torturing or in any way demeaning individual Baathists but they must come forward, say what they have, deliver what they have of government property, but it means also that the destruction, completely, of the Baath Party organisation."

Many observers have suggested that Mr Chalabi is the US choice for a future leader of Iraq.

But he said he was not a candidate for any political position and warned that focusing on individuals could be divisive.

"It's not about me, this is about liberation, this is about freedom, this is about development of democracy."

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"US special forces are helping turn this rag tag bunch into an organised army"

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