Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said those who attack the country's power grid and oil pipelines are ``traitors'' and ``not freedom fighters,'' and he called on Iraqis to defeat the saboteurs.
Sabotage has caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage and lost revenue, harming Iraq's recovery prospects, Allawi said in a statement his office distributed by e-mail through the U.S.- led coalition. Attacks on power lines cost Iraqis a loss of electricity of more than four hours per day, he said in the statement.
``I call on all Iraqi patriots to be vigilant,'' he said. ``It is our people that are sitting in the dark because of these cowardly and traitorous attacks, not our occupiers.''
Saboteurs yesterday ruptured a pipeline near Iraq's biggest fuel refinery at Baiji, north of the capital Baghdad. There have been more than 130 attacks against Iraq's oil infrastructure over the past seven months, leading to a loss of oil revenue exceeding $200 million, and the damage has polluted drinking water and destroyed farmland, Allawi said. Iraq has the world's second- largest oil reserves.
``In three weeks we will be a sovereign nation,'' Allawi said. ``We owe it to future generations to leave this land better, stronger and more independent than before. By working together to defeat these saboteurs, we can accomplish this goal in a sovereign Iraq.''
Violence continued today as four Iraqis were killed and 13 injured in the holy city of Najaf in fighting between Iraqi authorities and militiamen loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, threatening a recent agreement to end clashes in the region, the Associated Press reported, citing hospital and militia officials.
The United Nations Security Council voted earlier this week to restore Iraq's sovereignty on June 30 and mandate that U.S.-led military forces maintain security until the end of 2005, steps the U.S. sought to increase support for the Arab nation's recovery from the war that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Passage of the resolution gave UN backing to the interim government led by Allawi and grants his administration control of Iraq's oil wealth and the nation's soldiers and police. The text also pledges formal consultations between Iraqi leaders and the U.S.-led military commanders on security, ``including policy on sensitive offensive operations'' undertaken by the U.S. and its allies in Iraq.