Bremer Predicts Rise in Iraq Attacks

Iraqi guerrillas will step up attacks in the next few months in an attempt to thwart a transfer of sovereignty from the occupation authority to a new Iraqi government, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq said Friday.

But L. Paul Bremer (search) said in an interview with Associated Press Television News that U.S. forces were getting better intelligence in the fight against insurgents who stage attacks daily. Hours before he spoke, a roadside bomb hit a U.S. military convoy in Baghdad, killing one soldier. Two Iraqi civilians also died and 13 were wounded.

"In the immediate phase ahead of us, between now and the end of June, we will actually see an increase in attacks, because the people who are against us now realize that there's huge momentum behind both the economic and political reconstruction of this country," Bremer said.

According to a Nov. 15 agreement between the U.S.-led coalition and Iraq's Governing Council (search), caucuses will be held across Iraq to elect delegates who will convene by the end of May. One month later, the delegates will elect a transitional government with full sovereign powers, formally ending the U.S.-led occupation — although American troops will stay on.

"The dead-enders can see that all this, plus the fact that the Iraqi people will get their sovereignty back, spells trouble for them," Bremer said.

"So I think we will see a phase now when we will actually see increased attacks," he said.

Bremer said the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi leaders were making progress in negotiations on a transfer of power. Some prominent Shiite Muslim leaders had opposed the plan for delegates to elect a transitional government, calling instead for early, direct elections.

"Everybody wants to implement the Nov. 15 agreement now," Bremer said. "We are prepared to work out some clarifications about the best way to do that."

"As one gets into this a bit, I think that people realize that holding full-scale elections at this point is really not a good option — it would not lead to a feeling of legitimacy in the process," he said.

The U.S. administrator said the coalition would find a way to please Shiite leaders as well as members of Iraq's Governing Council.

Bremer said the guerrilla movement consisted largely of people from Saddam Hussein's former intelligence services, as well as "large numbers of professional, trained terrorists."

"What we are doing is essentially three things: improving our intelligence against them, making our forces lighter and more mobile so that they can deal with this threat, which is different than a ground war, and finally, putting more and more Iraqis into the fight for their own country through the security services," Bremer said.

A total of 79 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq in November. Another 25 allied troops also were killed, making it the deadliest month for the coalition since the invasion of Iraq on March 20.

At a briefing, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said that in the past week, there have been an average of 19 attacks daily on coalition forces and an average of two attacks daily against Iraqi security forces or civilians.

Also Friday, President Bush named former Secretary of State James A. Baker III (search) to oversee the job of getting Iraq out from under its $125 billion debt.

The military said a roadside bomb Friday killed a U.S. soldier who was traveling in a three-vehicle convoy near the al-Samarrai Mosque (search) in the New Baghdad section of the capital.

Two civilians — a man and a woman — also died, said Karim Abdullah Muslim, head of emergency services at al-Kindi hospital.

Haidar Aziz Kazim, 11, said he was shopping with his mother and aunt when the explosion occurred.

"I blame Saddam Hussein for what happened," said Kazim, who was hospitalized with leg wounds. "They are hurting ordinary Iraqis, not the Americans."