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Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The top U.S. civilian official in Iraq on Saturday set a June 15 deadline to get much of Iraq's infrastructure up and running and normalize the country's health and educational systems.

Speaking at a conference of medical workers, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner - head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance - reiterated his main goal was to bring stability back to Iraq. It remains a daunting objective. More than a month after U.S. troops entered Baghdad, most government services remain either nonexistent or in a state of chaos.

To achieve that, Garner said, the national power grid had to be restored, the health system repaired, schools reopened and safe drinking water provided. He also said city councils would be set up across Iraq and crops harvested and bought up.

"It is my object to accomplish this by the 15th of June," Garner said. "After June 15, if we accomplish all these things together, we can begin the process of handing things back to the people of Iraq."

Garner's agency consists of 800 U.S. experts seconded by the various departments of the U.S. government and drawn from the ranks of police and health specialists, aid and oil experts.

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Garner said his office would provide medicines and other supplies to hospitals across the country free of charge. He proposed that health services be provided free to the people for the next 11/2 months.

"What we are proposing for the next 45 days is to have free health care," he said, adding that in the future Iraq's oil wealth would be used to fund the health system.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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