BAGHDAD, Iraq – Reconstruction officials met Sunday with top deputies from Baghdad's former city government to begin sorting out how to restart critical services like water, electricity and garbage pickups. They also announced plans for a second meeting with Iraqi political leaders.
"We need to get control of waste disposal, get water and sewage going. We need to get things going again," said Keith Schollum, an Australian aide in the U.S.-led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (search) run by retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner.
After the meeting, Garner deputy Barbara Bodine said an "emerging leadership" for Iraq should begin to appear at a major meeting of political factions on Monday in Baghdad. She said the session should be much more representative than the first such meeting April 15 in the southern city of Ur.
U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, found 14 suspicious barrels, including one that preliminary tests found could contain a mixture of nerve and blistering agents, according to news reports. The barrels were found in a weapons storage area 25 miles north of Saddam Hussein's home region of Tikrit (search).
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said U.S. troops would stay in Iraq and Afghanistan until those countries are stable and democratic governments have taken control.
Rumsfeld flew to the Gulf region and, along with Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the Iraq war, held talks Sunday with top officials from the United Arab Emirates.
Rumsfeld was in the region to meet with U.S. troops involved in the war in Iraq and discuss America's role in postwar Iraq. He has said the United States is considering reducing its presence in the Persian Gulf now that the threat from Iraq is over.
Rumsfeld also plans to visit American troops and government officials in Afghanistan later this week.
In Baghdad, coalition forces and ORHA -- the reconstruction agency -- are pushing to get the city's infrastructure back together as quickly as possible because residents have grown increasingly restless from living without electricity, running water, telephone service or sewage disposal.
Anger and anti-American sentiment flared white hot Saturday after a U.S.-held weapons cache laden with 80 Iraqi missiles exploded on the edge of Baghdad, killing at least six people and showering homes for miles around with warheads, rockets and mortars.
The U.S. military blamed unknown attackers who they said fired four flares into the sprawling open missile dump. But hundreds of enraged, screaming Iraqis blamed Iraq's new American overseers. Wailing women collapsed over the coffins of two adults and four teenagers.
"No Saddam! No Bush! Yes to Islam!" fist-waving men shouted. The disaster touched off protests in the stricken Zafaraniyah neighborhood and in the city center. Residents near the blast fired on U.S. troops trying to help the wounded, briefly driving the soldiers from the scene.
An American soldier suffered a broken arm in the attack. The New York Times, quoting an anonymous U.S. military official, said the Iraqi toll could go much higher.
U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Mark Kitchens blamed "despicable people" for allegedly firing the flares.
In Baghdad, Schollum said ORHA officials were meeting with the old city government's deputy mayor for technical services and deputy mayor for administration, among others.
"The mayor -- a political appointee -- obviously has fled," he Schollum.
American troops took control of Baghdad on April 8 and Garner arrived with his staff Monday to put together a new government for Baghdad and the rest of Iraq.
The ORHA specialists were meeting with about 10 senior Iraqi officials. Schollum said ORHA began paying some municipal workers in U.S. dollars Saturday. Garner has been urging all Iraqi civil servants to report back to duty.
Schollum said the ORHA team hopes that municipal workers might begin picking up the city's huge accumulations of garbage as early as Monday.
The Monday meeting in Baghdad is one in a series intended to produce a new president for Iraq.
The first such meeting, April 15, came just a week after U.S. forces took control of Baghdad and toppled Saddam's ruling Baath Party government. Fewer than 100 representatives of Iraqi opposition groups attended, and some groups boycotted in protest of U.S. influence over the process.
Between 300 and 400 representatives of political organizations and interest groups are expected to take part in the all-day meeting Monday, Bodine said.
She would not say exactly who was attending or whether groups that boycotted the previous meeting, particularly the Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, would show up.
She did say one of those invited was Ahmad Chalabi (search), an Iraqi opposition figure who is widely viewed as the Pentagon's choice to be Iraq's interim president. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Chalabi said he had not decided whether to attend Monday's meeting. He sent representatives to the session in Ur.