Thursday, July 10, 2003

Nearly two months after dissolving Saddam Hussein's army, officials of the U.S.-led occupation said Wednesday that recruiting for a new force will begin next week.

Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton said recruiting will start July 19 in Baghdad, the northern city of Mosul and the southern city of Basra. A 1,000-strong contingent will begin training in August and a further 12,000 by year's end. The number of trained recruits will reach 40,000 by the end of 2004, he said.

Members of the four top levels in Saddam's now-banned Baath party will not be allowed to join the new army, said Eaton, an American who will be in charge of the training.

"This is the seed of the future Iraqi armed forces," he told reporters. "They will be representative of all people of Iraq."

Those eligible to join the army must be between 18 and 40 years of age. During the two-month training period, they'll be paid $60 monthly. Recruits who successfully complete training must serve a minimum of 26 months and their salaries will be determined according to rank.

"A highly functional armed force will be an army to secure the nation, not the will be unpolitical" and represent Iraq culturally, ethnically and religiously, Eaton said.

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