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Lieberman: Arab Leader Should Rule Post-Hussein Iraq

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman said the Bush administration should consider promoting an experienced Arab government official to oversee Iraq after Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

The Connecticut lawmaker told the Council on Foreign Relations Wednesday that although the United States has earned the right to play a central role in rebuilding Iraq, reconstruction should be a cooperative effort with the nations that support military strikes there.

He also called for the establishment of an Interim International Oil Oversight Board, which would audit all oil dealings and make them public. He said the board would ensure that the oil resources remain under Iraqi control and would undercut the argument by some that a U.S.-led war against Iraq reflects Washington's desire to dominate the country's oil.

"We must require that for an initial period of time, all the financial benefit from that oil is invested directly in Iraq's revival and reconstruction," he said.

Lieberman, one of at least eight Democrats running for next year's presidential nomination, supports a military strike against Baghdad to remove weapons of mass destruction, despite calls for peace from many Democratic activists. Last fall, he was instrumental in working with the administration on a congressional resolution giving President Bush the authority to use force against Iraq.

Bush was to deliver a speech on Iraq later Wednesday at the American Enterprise Institute, outlining his plan for postwar Iraq and the Middle East. He was expected to argue that getting rid of Saddam would make the Middle East, where fighting between Israelis and Palestinians has raged for months, more stable.

Lieberman said the administration should consult with other nations to choose a post-Saddam administrator before a conflict begins, although he doesn't have anyone specific in mind.

"I wouldn't want to hurt their possibilities by endorsing them," he said. "But to state the obvious, there are an endless list of capable leaders and governmental administrators from within the Arab world."