AGHDAD, Iraq, May 13 — United States military forces in Iraq will have the authority to shoot looters on sight under a tough new security setup that will include hiring more police officers and banning ranking members of the Baath Party from public service, American officials said today.
The far more muscular approach to bringing order to postwar Iraq was described by the new American administrator, L. Paul Bremer, at a meeting of senior staff members today, the officials said. On Wednesday, Mr. Bremer is expected to meet with the leaders of Iraqi political groups that are seeking to form an interim government by the end of the month. "He made it very clear that he is now in charge," said an official who attended the meeting today. "I think you are going to see a change in the rules of engagement within a few days to get the situation under control."
Asked what this meant, the official replied, "They are going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around" that assaults on property, the hijacking of automobiles and violent crimes will be dealt with using deadly force.
How Iraqis will be informed of the new rules is not clear. American officials in Iraq have access to United States-financed radio stations, which could broadcast the changes.
A tougher approach over all appears to be at the core of Mr. Bremer's mandate from President Bush to save the victory in Iraq from a descent into anarchy, a possibility feared by some Iraqi political leaders if steps are not taken quickly to check violence and lawlessness.
But imposing measures that call for the possible killing of young, unemployed or desperate Iraqis for looting appears to carry a certain level of risk because of the volatile sentiments in the streets here. Gas lines snake through neighborhoods, garbage piles up, and the increasing heat frequently provides combustion for short tempers, which are not uncommonly directed at the American presence here.
Mr. Bremer did not spell out to senior members of the American and British reconstruction team whether his authority would supersede that of Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the land forces commander in the country.
But in tackling the security problem, Mr. Bremer will confront the need for a police force, and the difficulty of building a credible one on the wreckage of Saddam Hussein's hated security establishment.
The officials said Mr. Bremer told his staff that his urgent priority was to rebuild a police force, especially in Baghdad, so it could become visible and available "on the streets."
Another tough measure that the officials said Mr. Bremer was eager to make public is a decree on de-Baathification, the process of weeding out senior members of Mr. Hussein's political establishment to ensure that the totalitarian principles on which the Baath Party ruled are not perpetuated.
American officials said the decree on the Baath Party will prohibit its officials above certain ranks from serving in future governments. Rehabilitation procedures will be created for some high-ranking officials, but they will still be excluded from government service, the officials said.
Mr. Bremer appeared before the senior staff of the reconstruction administration with Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who has been in charge of the rebuilding mission under military command. Administration officials say General Garner will leave his post after a few weeks.
Today, according to people who attended the closed meeting, Mr. Bremer praised General Garner's performance with words that were greeted with sustained applause.
Nonetheless, questions linger about the Bush administration's decision to replace General Garner and abruptly call home one of his top assistants, Barbara K. Bodine.
General Garner and Ms. Bodine, one of the most experienced Iraq specialists on his staff, were unable to decide on how to create any new authority in Baghdad, and clashed as personalities, officials said. "It was not a good fit," one commented today.
Mr. Bremer made no public appearance today, but he is scheduled to meet with Iraqi leaders on Wednesday, some of whom have misgivings about whether he will change the course that General Garner had set toward quickly forming an interim government of Iraqis and turning over substantial power to it.
The wisdom of a speedy turnover was questioned today by some officials, who noted the acute crisis over crime and security in the capital.
Other countries, meanwhile, declared themselves willing to join in the effort to remake Iraq.
Romanian officials said they would send about 500 soldiers to help police Iraq. The foreign minister, Mircea Geoana, told reporters today that Romania would prefer to act under a United Nations resolution.
"The idea is for Romania to send a contingent of a few hundred, most likely under British command," Mr. Geoana said in Bucharest.
Meanwhile in Geneva today, the World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, said the bank would send a team to assess reconstruction needs in Iraq as soon as security permitted, another sign that the lack of security is delaying the first important steps toward recovery.
In central Iraq today, a prominent Shiite cleric said that redressing the Shiites' long exclusion from political power was necessary.
But the cleric, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, also said there was no single demand for a new political system from Shiites, who are a majority in Iraq.
"They have divergent views and that's what democracy is all about," Ayatollah Hakim said.
The ayatollah returned to his hometown of Najaf on Monday after years in exile in Iran as the leader of the opposition Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. He has already met resistance from one group of clerics, led by Sheik Moktada al-Sadr, who have promoted themselves as the representative of long-suppressed Shiites.
Ayatollah Hakim, at a news conference, shrugged off questions about Sheik Sadr, saying he would not comment on the rivalry. "I don't talk about these people," he said.
He was also elusive on the subject of the Badr Brigade, his armed militia that was financed by Iran, saying only that it would switch to providing security in Iraq. Asked if the group would be disarmed, as an anti-Iran militia in Iraq will be, Ayatollah Hakim said, "Security means they should carry weapons."
Security in Najaf, as in other Iraqi cities, has become a major worry for residents, who have to ward off looters and other criminals with neighborhood committees in the absence of working police forces.
But Ayatollah Hakim refused to say whether American forces had granted the Badr Brigade the job of policing Najaf, which his now administered by a self-appointed mayor who is a retired Iraqi military officer.
He also said he did not sanction the use of force to resist the American occupation of Iraq, but would resist it politically.
The ayatollah and his movement have, however, been part of the Iraqi National Congress, which has been cooperating with the United States for several years as an outside opposition to Saddam Hussein.