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Archive for Monday, February 23, 2004

Shiite leader demands an end to ‘stalling’ on election issue

February 23, 2004

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— A leading Shiite member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council on Sunday demanded no more "stalling" on arranging for elections for a new government.

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb near the northern city of Mosul killed an Iraqi, while another bomb south of Fallujah exploded as a U.S. Army convoy passed, witnesses said. There was no report from the U.S. command on casualties.

Also Sunday, four Iraqi policemen were injured when a bomb exploded in Baghdad's al-Washash neighborhood. The officers were responding to a report of a "strange body" found in the area, police said. They had no further details.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Army announced the arrest of two Iraqi policemen for alleged links to the insurgency.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday the insurgents were trying to create strife among Iraqis to frustrate U.S. interests.

Meanwhile, in an interview broadcast Sunday by Al-Jazeera television, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite cleric and Governing Council member, said the U.S.-run coalition should have begun planning for elections months ago.

Al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, wanted guarantees that "there'll be no more stalling as was the case in the past."

Shiites, believed to comprise about 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, are eager for a quick vote to transfer their numerical superiority into political power after decades of suppression by the Sunni Muslim minority. Sunnis fear a quick vote will further marginalize their community, closely identified with Saddam Hussein's regime.

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