Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BAGHDAD - Iraq's new U.S. overseer took a major step yesterday toward disarming Iraq, formally dissolving Saddam Hussein's Defense Ministry and disbanding the Republican Guard and the once-mighty Iraqi army.
Coalition authorities are also readying a directive that will attempt to control the flood of weapons that swamped Baghdad and other urban areas in the months before the war. That order will ban the possession of heavy firearms and munitions, except by coalition forces and the Kurdish "peshmerga" militia fighters, U.S. allies in the drive to oust Saddam.
"These actions are part of a robust campaign to show the Iraqi people that the Saddam regime is gone and will never return," the administration of U.S. civilian authority L. Paul Bremer said in a statement in Baghdad.
Also disbanded yesterday in the continuing effort to purge the Ba'athist regime were the Ministry of Information and the Revolutionary Command Council, Saddam's hand-picked Cabinet of advisers.
All told, some 400,000 employees of the old regime are likely to lose their posts, according to unofficial estimates.
"Most of these will not be replaced, because they have no place in a free society," said an announcement issued by Mr. Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority. "This order also disbands the regular armed forces of the old regime, because they were deeply penetrated and heavily dominated by the Ba'ath Party and its loyalists."
U.S. troops Thursday also seized what appeared to be $500 million worth of gold bars from a truck near Qaim on the Syrian border, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement yesterday. The 2,000 40-pound bars could be gold, it said. Two persons in the Mercedes-Benz truck said they had been paid $350 to drive the shipment.
When the gun-control measure is approved by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Iraqis will likely have a two-week amnesty period to turn in …