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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Shi'ite Leader Says No to Permanent Foreign Bases in Iraq

13 October 2007

In Iraq Saturday, a key Shi'ite political figure said there should be no permanent foreign military bases in Iraq. VOA's Jim Randle reports from northern Iraq.

Ammar al-Hakim, the second-ranking person in Iraq's largest Shi'ite party, spoke during a prayer service Saturday in Baghdad for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hakim also called for unity among Iraqis, and the end of sectarian strife.

He told worshipers Iraqis are taking the first steps toward a unified nation, and will succeed only if they have unity of purpose, and the shared goal of solving the nation's problems.

He spoke in place of his father, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraq Council. Abdel Aziz al-Hakim is recovering from cancer, and his son is viewed as his likely successor.

In the meantime, the U.S. military says a high-ranking officer is scheduled to go on trial October 15 on charges of aiding the enemy by providing an unmonitored cell phone to prison detainees.

Lt. Col. William Steele was once a commander at Camp Cropper, a large detention center in Iraq run by the U.S. military. Camp Cropper held the ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein before he was executed in December 2006.

In a pre-trial hearing earlier this year, witnesses testified that Steele violated military rules by approving the use of U.S. funds to buy Cuban cigars for Saddam. That however does not appear in the statement released Saturday by the U.S. military.

Steele is also accused of failing to properly store and protect classified information. The military also says he had an improper relationship with a female interpreter.

In a note to journalists, the U.S. military in Iraq says Steele could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

The officer has already pleaded guilty to other charges, including mis-handling classified information and possessing pornographic videos.

Those guilty pleas could bring him a sentence of up to six years and dismissal from the service.

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