Other items: Marine killed in fight in Anbar province and Lott joins GOP calls for Rumsfeld's ouster.

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WASHINGTON — A top Army general yesterday reiterated charges that the Iraqi insurgency was being run in part by former senior Iraqi Baath party officials operating in Syria who call themselves the “New Regional Command.”


These men, from the former governing party of deposed President Saddam Hussein, are “operating out of Syria with impunity and providing direction and financing for the insurgency,” said Gen. George Casey Jr., the U.S. commander in Iraq.


He called on the government of President Bashar Assad to do more to stop the insurgency from being managed by Iraqis hiding in Syria. Casey’s comments echoed remarks by President Bush on Wednesday but provided new details, including the name of the leadership organization in Syria. Casey contrasted his view of Syria’s role with what he described as the more distant threat presented by Iran.


“I don’t see substantial Iranian influence on this particular government that will be elected in January,” he said. “I see Iran as more of a longer-term threat to Iraqi security a long-term threat to stability in Iraq. If you look on the other side, I think Syria is a short-term threat.”


Saddam meets lawyer in advance of hearings


BAGHDAD, Iraq — Saddam Hussein met with a defense lawyer yesterday for the first time since his capture a year ago, days before several of his top aides are due to appear in court for hearings on alleged war crimes.


The unidentified attorney spent four hours with the 67-year-old former dictator at Saddam’s undisclosed detention site, said his chief lawyer, Ziad al-Khasawneh.


Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Tuesday that procedures could begin next week before the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Saddam will not be among the first to appear in court. But his notorious former right-hand man, Ali Hassan al-Majid — the ex-general known as “Chemical Ali” for his use of chemical weapons — is expected to appear along with 11 other former regime members at the initial investigative court hearing next week.


Marine killed in fight in Anbar province


A U.S. Marine was “killed in action” yesterday while conducting security and stabilization operations in the volatile Anbar province west of Baghdad, the military said. More details were not released and the Marine’s identity was withheld pending notification of relatives.


Insurgents killed 10 other people yesterday — including a government official gunned down in the capital and three refugees slain by a rocket attack in northern Iraq.


Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Qassim Mehawi, deputy head of the Communications Ministry, as he went to work in Baghdad, and eight of his bodyguards were injured.


In Ramadi, west of Baghdad, militants told journalists they shot and killed an Italian citizen after he tried to break through a guerrilla roadblock on a highway, purportedly killing one gunman.


Lott joins GOP calls for Rumsfeld’s ouster


WASHINGTON — Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., joined a growing chorus of Republicans urging the removal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld because of the Pentagon chief’s failure to call for more troops in Iraq and to properly equip troops serving there.


Speaking to a local chamber of commerce in Mississippi, Lott said on Wednesday, “I am not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld. I don’t think he listens to his uniformed officers.” Lott said Rumsfeld should not be forced to resign immediately but that “I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so.”


In recent days, conservative GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska raised concerns about Rumsfeld’s management of the war.


Also


Philadelphia police have arrested a soldier they say had his cousin shoot him so he wouldn’t have to return to Iraq.


Iraqi civilians who fled Fallujah ahead of a U.S. assault on the city more than one month ago can start returning home next week, Iraq’s interim government said yesterday. More than 200,000 people have yet to go home.