The occupation of Iraq seems to be entering yet another critical phase. While Saddam Hussein has been captured, this result does not affect key issues of transition that Iraq must at some point address. For example, the Bush administration hoped to train some 40,000 soldiers by next October for use in Iraq's new light infantry battalions. Yet half of the initial recruits have already deserted, citing lack of adequate pay and fear of reprisals from insurgents. This, in turn, is linked to the amount of attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, as there will be a less developed indigenous security and military apparatus to gradually replace coalition members.
Iraqi police opened fire on hundreds of stone-throwing former Iraqi soldiers demanding monthly stipends promised by the US-led coalition.
At least four protesters were shot in the southern Iraqi town.
The Basra protesters marched on the Central Bank on Tuesday and then tried to force their way in to get money, pelting the building with stones before turning on police who first tried to stop them by wielding batons. Police then opened fire.
British forces arrived on the scene and calmed the situation, using megaphones to say in Arabic: "You will get what you deserve, but not in this way."
The soldiers said they had not been paid a monthly stipend equivalent to US$50 ($A65.05) since September.
Coalition officials said the ex-soldiers would be paid Wednesday, but only if there was no violence.
The Coalition Authority had been dogged by protests by ex-servicemen after it disbanded Iraq's military in May, leaving more than 250,000 foot soldiers destitute.
Tensions over Iraqi Kurd demands for substantial autonomy within a future sovereign Iraq are causing unrest in northern Iraq and growing unease among Iraq's neighbors. In the latest of a string of violent incidents in the northern city of Kirkuk, unidentified attackers fired a rocket at the headquarters of one of the two main Kurdish factions, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
The attack comes after some 2,000 Arabs and Turkish-speaking Turkomans last week surrounded the PUK's head office to protest Kurdish calls for autonomy and demand that Kirkuk remain under the control of the central government in Baghdad.
Several bursts of gunfire during the protest left at least five people dead and debate is still raging in the city over who fired first - Kurdish police or protesters. Another person was later killed as rival groups clashed in the city center.
Emotions have run high in Kirkuk ever since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in April brought a dramatic change in its status.
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.