Saturday, November 27, 2004

Big Iraqi Parties Are Urging Delay in Jan. 30 Voting

Big Iraqi Parties Are Urging Delay in Jan. 30 Voting
“Some of Iraq's most powerful political groups, including the party led by the interim prime minister, called Friday for a six-month delay in elections scheduled for Jan. 30, citing concerns over security.

The list of groups includes some that have been among the strongest backers of American policy in Iraq, and their call gives sudden momentum to those arguing for a postponement. The two main Kurdish parties supported the delay request, marking the first time the Kurds, closely allied with the Americans, have taken a clear stand on the issue.

President Bush told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., that he hoped the elections would proceed on schedule. But in recent days, administration officials have indicated in private comments that they would insist on January elections only as long as Iraqi officials did.

The Iraqi government itself did not join in a petition issued Friday to the electoral commission calling for a delay. The party of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi gave oral assent rather than a signature to the document.

It was signed by 15 groups and orally backed by dozens of individual political and religious figures after an impassioned two-hour meeting at the Baghdad home of Adnan Pachachi, a prominent Sunni politician.

‘The participants call for postponement of the elections for six months in order to address the current security situation and to complete the necessary administrative, technical and systematic arrangements,’ the petition said.

One participant said the party of Dr. Allawi, the Iraqi National Accord, did not sign the petition perhaps because of fear that a written call by him would be seen as a self-serving effort to stay in power.”

Shiite Muslims, who make up at least 60 percent of the population, have been adamant about holding elections by the end of January. Sunni Arabs, and Kurds to a lesser degree, have expressed fears that Shiites will vastly dominate the new government and exercise their power unchecked. The Sunni Arabs and the Kurds each make up about a fifth of the population, and Sunnis ruled what is now Iraq for centuries until the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

An interim constitution approved last spring says elections must be held by the end of January. On Sunday, an Iraqi electoral commission independent of the government set Jan. 30 as election day. But even before that, some parties, particularly ones dominated by Sunni Arabs, had begun agitating for a delay, arguing that violence in the Sunni regions of central and northern Iraq would cut voter turnout.…

Most of the groups that met at Mr. Pachachi's home are secular and led by Sunni Arabs. The call for delay widens the growing political rifts between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs, and underscores the stark sectarian divisions that threaten to unravel the very social fabric of this country.

Most secular parties also have little name recognition right now and want more time to organize campaigns against religious candidates.

But those arguing for a delay on Friday cited the deteriorating security condition as the main reason.

Four employees of a British security company, Global Risk Strategies, were killed and up to 15 wounded when a rocket or mortar shell landed Thursday in Baghdad inside the fortified Green Zone, security contractors said Friday. Reports indicated that perhaps all four of the men who died were former Gurkha warriors from Nepal.

American troops in the devastated city of Falluja continued going house to house searching for insurgents, occasionally engaging in gun battles. Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, said troops had cleared about half of the city's buildings in the nearly two weeks since the American-led offensive ended.

Thousands of American-led troops continued a sweep through Babil Province, a Sunni area immediately south of Baghdad that is rife with bandits and insurgents.…
con·cept: Big Iraqi Parties Are Urging Delay in Jan. 30 Voting