The Bush administration encountered several new headaches this week in its effort to justify and maintain its occupation of Iraq.

First among these was the dramatic admission by chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay that Saddam Hussein’s government did not possess weapons of mass destruction or the means to produce them at the time of the U.S. invasion.

“I’m personally convinced that there were not large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction,” Kay told the New York Times. “We don’t find the people, the documents or the physical plants that you would expect to find if the production was going on.” Kay announced that he was stepping down from his job immediately.

Following on the heels of Kay’s resignation was a new report on Iraq from Human Rights Watch, which said the United States and Britain had no justification for invading Iraq either on the grounds of alleged threats from illicit weapons and terrorism, or as a humanitarian mission.

In Iraq, the Bush administration’s scheme for “transferring power” to the Iraqis is running into snags. Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the senior Shiite cleric, after initially signaling that he might be amenable to a role for the United Nations in determining the best conditions for constituting a new government, has reiterated his original demand for direct elections. The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council has also expressed reservations about the Bush-Bremer scheme.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has announced a UN team is traveling to Iraq to assess the prospects of holding elections by June 30.

Finally, bomb explosions in Baghdad and elsewhere have continued, underscoring the continuing instability of the situation.

A bomb that exploded south of Baghdad killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded three others Jan. 27, hours after another bombing west of the capital killed three U.S. paratroopers and wounded one, the military said. These incidents bring the U.S. soldier death toll to 519.

On Jan. 22 an office of the Iraqi Communist Party in Baghdad’s Al-Jadida/Mashtal district was bombed, killing two party members, Yasser Aboud and Shaker Jassem Ajeel. The building was almost totally destroyed. A meeting of 50 party activists had taken place at the office just an hour earlier.

The Iraqi Communist Party denounced the bombing as a “cowardly and treacherous attack,” and reaffirmed its determination “to press ahead, to achieve a free and prosperous Iraq, and a better life, enjoying peace, democracy and full national sovereignty.”

Worldwide demonstrations against the continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq will take place on March 20. United for Peace and Justice, a national coalition, is among the sponsors of demonstrations in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago on that date.