BAGHDAD, Iraq - Hundreds of Iraqi doctors in white lab coats took to the streets Wednesday, insisting they will not accept the U.S.-appointed head the Health Ministry because of his ties to the overthrown regime of Saddam Hussein.
Chanting in English, "New clean era! New clean figures!", some 400 doctors, most wearing their clip-on hospital IDs, marched through the lawless streets of Baghdad.
The demonstration, unthinkable under Saddam, highlighted the difficulties the United States faces in forming a new Iraqi administration. Membership in Saddam's Baath Party was required for top officials and most bureaucrats, and finding educated, capable Iraqis who were not members has been difficult.
Chanting in English, 'New clean era! New clean figures', some 400 Iraqi doctors and medical personnel stand in front of an U.S. Army checkpoint after they marched through the center of Baghdad, Wednesday, May 7, 2003. Hundreds of Iraqi doctors in white lab coats took to the street Wednesday, insisting they will not accept the U.S. appointed head of the Health Ministry because of his ties to the overthrown regime of Saddam Hussein .(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
On Saturday, the U.S. civil administration named Ali Shnan al-Janabi, No. 3 at the Health Ministry under Saddam, to head the ministry. Before the war, al-Janabi "was a faithful servant of Saddam," said Imad Saud, a resident in cardiothoracic surgery. "How can we trust him?"
"Saddam was not the only one," Saud said as he marched. "He was the father of corruption."
U.S. officials acknowledge they will need to rely on former Iraqi officials in any new administration.
"Like most other totalitarian regimes, most of the people that worked in running the country were part of the party," said Jay Garner, head of the American-run civil administration. "Some were good, some were bad," he said.
Doctors accused al-Janabi of being part of a corrupt ministry that demanded kickbacks. Many of the physicians demanded the right to elect the head of the ministry and suggested choosing an Iraqi living in exile.
"We would agree to an Iraqi doctor from outside - a clean and efficient one," said Saud. "We want to be like the American and British health system."
Later, the doctors met with Stephen Browning, the U.S. adviser to the ministry and al-Janabi, who offered to step down but not before elections were held for his replacement.
Maj. Gen. Tim Cross, British head of the international section of the civil administration, said some members of the former regime have already been blocked from participating in a new government.
At the Ministry of Planning, Cross said, "some of the senior leadership ... are being asked to go home and take extended leave. We've asked some people not to return to the Ministry of Interior."
In the north, politics took a step forward Wednesday in Tikrit, Saddam's tense hometown. U.S. forces appointed a governor and deputy governor of Salah ad-Din province, where Tikrit is located.
Brig. Gen. Hosin Jasem Mohamed al-Jbouri, a Tikrit native, was an Iraqi army officer during the Gulf War and fought the Americans. He fell out of favor with Saddam afterward because he became too popular and was imprisoned briefly in 1993 before becoming head of the country's customs operation.
Al-Jbouri, whose name was proposed by Yarab al-Hashimi, the Tikrit chief of the U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces, said he didn't worry about being perceived as a lackey by pro-Saddam forces in Tikrit.
"They are not a majority. They are a minority," he said. "And if we do a good job for the people, they will learn the good side of the Americans. When you see things are going well, you get their trust."
Nahad Gaze Ahmed al-Nasere, a former Iraqi air force colonel, was appointed deputy governor. Both men signed statements renouncing any loyalty to the Baath Party and rejecting any claims it might have on power.
© 2003 The Associated Press