BASRA, Iraq—Iraqi soldiers complained Saturday of the allies' plans to disband the country's armed forces, with some threatening to take up arms against occupying American and British troops unless their salaries were continued.
About 50 Iraqi soldiers marched to one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces here in the southern city of Basra to air their grievances. They were turned away without incident by heavily armed British soldiers at the front gate.
Similar complaints were raised by soldiers in Baghdad.
"If they don't pay us, we'll start problems," said Lt. Col. Ahmed Muhammad, 41, a 25-year navy veteran based in Basra and a leader of the disgruntled Iraqi soldiers. "We have guns at home. If they don't pay us, if they make our children suffer, they'll hear from us."
Other soldiers made similar threats. They said they followed the instructions laid out in the leaflets dropped by allied aircraft before the war encouraging them not to fight on behalf of Saddam.
"The U.S. planes dropped the papers telling us to stay in our homes," said an Iraqi tank driver in Basra who refused to give his name. "They said our families would be fine."
On Friday, L. Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator in Iraq, issued an order dissolving Iraq's armed forces, abolishing institutions that he said "constituted and supported the most repressive activities of Saddam Hussein's regime."
In Basra, some angry soldiers said Saturday that their military work was primarily a job to help feed their families and that they ought to be treated the same as civil servants, who began receiving payments Saturday from the American civil administration.
"I am entitled to my pension," Naser Shbeb, a retired Iraqi navy officer, said angrily.
The British military, which is patrolling Basra, has met with the disgruntled Iraqi soldiers.
A British military spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Clive Woodman, said the former soldiers would be registered in the weeks ahead and that some would be employed on civilian projects to help Basra recover from the war.
"The whole issue of how we employ the ex-Iraqi military is a controversial subject," Woodman said. "It won't be solved overnight."
But Muhammad said he and other Iraqi soldiers had not been paid since the former government last issued them salaries in February.
Muhammad said he used to receive 200,000 dinars a month, about $200.
Iraqi soldiers, marching through the streets in the sweltering heat of Basra, said in interviews Saturday that they made things far easier for the allied forces by staying out of the war and that they should not be neglected in the new Iraq.