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Senator criticizes planning for postwar Iraq

A leading Republican senator accused the Bush administration Thursday of moving too slowly in developing plans to rebuild Iraq, saying, "We may be coming close to the moment of truth."

Sen. Richard Lugar, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comments that costs to the United States might be limited "runs contrary to almost all we are hearing."

Lugar of Indiana spoke after his committee held a closed-door meeting with Assistant Secretary of State William Burns to discuss Iraqi reconstruction plans.

"It appears to me that the work on what happens after hostilities is well behind the military planning," Lugar said. He said the committee has been urging the administration to move faster.

"We may be coming close to a moment of truth in which performance will have to occur," he said. "It's beyond that which is hypothetical."

In hearings by Lugar's committee on a post-Hussein Iraq, senators have heard concerns about possible ethnic conflicts, fears of massive hunger and uncertainty about how Iraq's government and economy will be rebuilt.

Chaos in postwar Iraq could mean a longer and costlier commitment of U.S. troops, analysts have said. It could also create the kind of lawlessness that terrorist groups thrive on.

Pentagon officials, speaking on condition they not be identified, have briefed reporters on postwar plans. They said Iraqi soldiers would be used to rebuild the country and Iraq's civilian bureaucracy would be kept in operation.

Chief nuclear inspector urges staggered deadlines

VIENNA, Austria _ The chief U.N. nuclear inspector urged the Security Council on Thursday to compromise on proposed disarmament conditions for Iraq, with staggered deadlines and no ultimatum for war.

"I think there's a keen desire globally to do everything before resorting to war," Mohamed ElBaradei said in an Associated Press interview at his agency's headquarters along the Danube River in Vienna. He offered to return to Baghdad himself to help see a timetable of tasks carried out.

ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also dismissed the U.S. contention that Iraq intends to use imported aluminum tubes to eventually help make nuclear bombs.

ElBaradei reported to the Security Council last Friday that his investigation concluded the tubes were unrelated to nuclear work. Secretary of State Colin Powell has since said "more information from a European country" suggested they were, indeed, meant for that purpose.

"We have got this information," ElBaradei said, "and it doesn't change our assessment."

Navy rescues 8 Iraqis from sinking boat

ABOARD THE USS KITTY HAWK _ U.S. sailors responding to a radio distress call rescued eight Iraqi fishermen after their boat sank Thursday in the southern Persian Gulf, a senior Navy officer said.

The guided missile frigate USS Gary responded to a mayday call from a boat the caller identified as the Kaptain Muhamad shortly before 6 p.m., said Capt. Mike Mahon, the officer responsible for the frigate's squadron. He said the fishermen were in good condition and did not need medical attention.

The 30-yard fishing boat was in international waters about 15 nautical miles from the Gary in the southern part of the gulf when it issued a general distress call saying it was taking on water and was in danger of sinking.

"It was clearly a general mayday, they were pretty desperate," Mahon said aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, one of three U.S. aircraft carriers gathered in the northern gulf as part of the massive military buildup for a possible war against Iraq.

The Gary initially sent a helicopter, which found the boat foundering in seas with winds of 25-30 knots. But the helicopter couldn't start a rescue because the boat's small size gave the air crew "no place to work from," Mahon said.

When the Gary was close enough, it sent sailors to the stricken vessel in a small inflatable boat.

"The vessel was in the process of sinking when the Gary got the mayday call," Mahon said. "By the time (the inflatable) got over there it was in the process of capsizing and as they were taking the last people off the boat, it sank."

Two of the fishermen were rescued from the water, the last of them at about 10 p.m., he said.

Mahon said the Iraqis were searched and taken aboard the Gary, where they would be held in isolation and under observation, but probably not locked up.

The sunken boat's captain requested he and his crew be returned to Iraq, Mahon said. A process to do so was not clear, but would probably involve sending the men to a third country, which would then return them to Iraq.

The Gary is normally part of the Kitty Hawk's battle group, but is not part of the military mobilization against Iraq.

Weapons inspector killed in car crash in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq _ A U.N. weapons inspector was killed and one was injured Thursday in a car crash south of Baghdad.

A car carrying the two inspectors crashed head-on into a truck on a highway south of Baghdad, according to a statement from Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, the liaison with the inspectors.

The inspectors were returning to Baghdad after inspecting the al-Noamaniya tomato canning factory, 30 miles south of Baghdad, the NMD said.

Inspectors' spokesman Hiro Ueki said the inspection team was investigating the crash.

The NMD said the inspectors' car careered off the road and landed on its side in a swamp. NMD officials traveling in a convoy of four cars with the inspectors retrieved the inspectors and administered first aid.

One of the inspectors was airlifted to a Baghdad military hospital, but died an hour later, it said. It said the other was taken by ambulance to a hospital and was in stable condition.

Ueki denied an Iraqi report that the dead inspector was a Japanese citizen, but said he couldn't give the inspectors' nationalities until relatives were informed.