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30 killed as Iraq political squabbling spells trouble for handover


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30 killed as Iraq political squabbling spells trouble for handover
By Julius Strauss and Jack Fairweather in Baghdad
(Filed: 01/06/2004)

America and its Iraqi allies were locked in intense backroom bargaining last night over the appointment of a new president to head the country when the coalition hands over power at the end of this month.

While fresh violence flared across the country yesterday, killing more than 30 Iraqi militants, civilians and American soldiers, the political deadlock broke the United Nations deadline of May 31 to name a new interim government. It is not now clear when the line-up will be announced.


The impasse is creating a climate of suspicion and bitterness on the eve of what Britain and the United States say is a milestone on Iraq's march to freedom - the creation of a "sovereign" administration in Baghdad.

The latest dispute surrounds the choice of president. Many of the 25 members of the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council have united in opposition to the man apparently backed by both the US and the UN: Adnan Pachachi, 81.

Instead, they are rallying behind Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, a younger, Sunni moderate and tribal leader who has good ties with the Shia and Kurds, but who has criticised American actions in Iraq.

Some of governing council members accused America of blatant meddling yesterday.

"There's quite a lot of interference," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurd. "They should let the Iraqis decide for themselves. This is an Iraqi affair."

Jawad al-Boulani, an aide to a Shia council member, said: "If the government is formed in this way, the Iraqi people will reject it."

Few ordinary Iraqis see the plans to hand over sovereignty as anything more than a sop to public opinion that will make little difference to their lives. Many say they want the US-led coalition to leave the country immediately and allow them to settle their differences among themselves.

"Nothing will change. The Americans will still run this place," said Bayan al-Kubeysi, a professor of literature from Ramadi.

Western officials say governing council members are simply manoeuvring to keep their positions in the new regime. "They are hijacking the process as a lot of them want to keep the good jobs they have now," said one.

The descent into squabbling and counter-accusation does not bode well for the smooth handover of power, which will be crucial if the administration is to have a chance of winning popular support.

America's failure to bring order to the country has encouraged Iraqi politicians - some of them on the governing council - to win support by publicly attacking the coalition.

The council was set up last year as an advisory body to the American-led coalition.

The political negotiations were given a sense of urgency yesterday by a fresh wave of violence. Four people died and at least 25 wounded when a car bomb exploded in Baghdad.

The blast cut down pedestrians not far from the offices of Iraq's new prime minister-designate and the US administrative headquarters, but it was not clear where the bombers were heading when the Mercedes exploded on al-Kindi street, leaving a 10 ft deep crater.

Meanwhile, a military spokesman said a large bomb killed two soldiers of the US-led coalition in Baghdad, but gave few details.

In the Shia holy cities of Kufa and Najaf fighting intensified between US forces and the Mahdi militia loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Two American soldiers were killed as well as about 20 militia members in clashes in and around Kufa. A mother of three was killed and two of her children wounded in the crossfire.

In the north, the authorities declared a state of emergency after the latest of a series of political assassinations.

City councillors in Kirkuk suspended their weekly Monday meeting to protest at a wave of murders targeting local officials.

"A state of emergency has been announced as police in Kirkuk are on high alert for new attacks against senior officials in the city," Tahseen Keha, head of the council, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. There are no signs that security in Iraq is improving as the US-led administration prepares to end the occupation formally. The US military says it will stay until Iraqi forces can take over security.

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   Related reports    
John Keegan: History knows
Where death waits
Iraq factfile

External links    
Iraq - UN News Centre
Car bomb rocks busy Baghdad street [31 May '04] - Aljazeera  

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As I   posted in another thread let them be but stand by ;)