FALLUJAH, Iraq - A former Saddam Hussein-era general appointed by the Americans to lead an Iraqi security force in the rebellious Sunni stronghold of Fallujah urged tribal elders and sheiks Sunday to support U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.
Retired Maj. Gen. Mohammed Abdul-Latif rose to prominence after nearly monthlong battles last month between the Marines monthlong battles in April between the Marines and insurgents hunkered down in Fallujah's neighborhoods.
"We can make them (Americans) use their rifles against us or we can make them build our country, it's your choice," Latif told a gathering of more than 40 sheiks, city council members and imams in an eastern Fallujah suburb.
The siege of this city of 200,000 people, located about 40 miles west of Baghdad, was lifted when top Marine officers announced the creation of the Fallujah Brigade — a force made exclusively of former Iraqi army officers.
The Marines withdrew from Fallujah into the rural hinterland and far-flung suburbs, allowing the Iraqi force to take up positions and start patrols inside the city. The brigade is expected to number about 1,500 men, many of them conscripts or noncommissioned officers under Saddam.
They are expected to fight the guerrillas, although some of the same insurgents who fought the Marines last month will likely join the brigade.
On Sunday, Marines of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment provided security for the gathering in Kharma.
Latif, 66, a native of Baghdad, urged the elders to talk freely, citing the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
"The Quran says we should sit together, discuss and make a decision, but let it be the right decision," the silver-haired Latif — a slim figure wearing a blue shirt and dark blue tie and pants — told the sheiks.
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Iraqi General Urges Support of U.S. Troops
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