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Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
U.S., council leadership resist new call for election
BAGHDAD, Iraq Despite calls by an influential cleric for an imminent vote, U.S. occupation officials and their Iraqi allies yesterday rejected demands that direct election of a new national government be speeded up.
"We all want to implement democracy in Iraq, but we don't want to be hasty," said Hamid Kifai, spokesman for the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council.
U.S. officials are working with their Iraqi allies on a plan to return sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on June 30, but direct elections would wait until sometime next year. Instead, the plan calls for U.S.-approved caucuses to elect an interim assembly.
"There is no electoral infrastructure in this country to institute direct elections immediately," said Dan Senor, spokesman for L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq. "There are no voter rolls, no electoral districts. There is no history of direct elections in this country."
The defense of the go-slow approach came after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, the nation's leading Shiite cleric, intensified his campaign to force speedy direct elections. Shiites, long ruled by the Sunnis here, make up more than 60 percent of Iraq's population.
In a full-page advertisement yesterday in a leading Baghdad daily newspaper, al-Sistani was quoted as warning about "those who come from abroad."
"They want to distort the elections, distort democracy, distort the freedom which Iraqis are enjoying," Sistani is quoted as saying.
Bogus soda manufacturer will be making the real thing
BAGHDAD, Iraq An Iraqi company that has been selling fake Pepsi for the past 14 years will start manufacturing the genuine soft drink within a few months, its director said yesterday.
Hamid Jassim said his Baghdad Soft Drinks was awarded a five-year license as the sole distributor of Pepsi soft drinks in the central region of Iraq. He said he and Pepsi had agreed upon a "multi-million-dollar" sum.
Baghdad Soft Drinks had been bottling Pepsi for several years when the U.S. firm pulled out of Iraq in 1990 with the Gulf War looming. Since then, the company has been bottling and distributing non-brand cola in Pepsi bottles imported from countries such as Turkey and Iran.
"Of course Pepsi was angry about it but what could we do? We couldn't kick people out of their jobs during sanctions," Jassim said. He said the company has 1,300 workers, but plans to expand.
War-college teacher faults Bush on terror fight, Iraq war
MONTGOMERY, Ala. A report published by the Army War College calls the Bush administration's war on terrorism unfocused and says the invasion of Iraq was "a strategic error."
The research paper by Jeffrey Record, a professor at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, said the president's strategy "promises much more than it can deliver" and threatens to spread U.S. military resources too thin. Record also wrote that Saddam Hussein's Iraq did not present a threat to the United States and was a distraction from the war on terrorism.
The paper was published last month by the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute.
Lt. Col. Merideth Bucher, public-affairs officer for the Army War College, said yesterday it is not unusual for students, mostly higher-ranking officers, at the war college to be exposed to critical thought that might be contrary to current national policy.
Record's report concludes that the war on terrorism is too widespread and should focus on al-Qaida and other terrorist threats to the United States.
"The United States may be able to defeat al-Qaida, but it cannot rid the world of terrorism, much less evil," Record wrote.
Man convicted for secretly keeping track of Iraqis in U.S.
CHICAGO A community-newspaper publisher accused of spying on Iraqi dissidents in the United States was found guilty yesterday of serving as an unregistered agent for Saddam Hussein.
The jury took less than two hours to convict Khaled Abdel-Latif Dumeisi, 61, after the weeklong trial. He was convicted of failing to obey a federal law that requires agents of foreign governments to register with the Justice Department.
Prosecutors maintained that the Palestinian-born Dumeisi spied on Iraqi dissidents because he was desperate for money and admired Saddam Hussein as the only true friend of the Palestinian cause in the Mideast. They cited evidence of at least $3,000 in payments from the Iraqis to the debt-ridden publisher.
His tiny suburban newspaper, Al Mahjar, was full of articles critical of U.S. Mideast policy and praising the now-deposed Iraqi leader.
Visiting U.S. general warns Japan to brace for casualties
TOKYO Japan and other nations sending troops to Iraq need to prepare for possible casualties, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers said yesterday.
Japan has pledged $5 billion toward Iraqi reconstruction and recently sent 30 of an eventual 1,000 or so peacekeepers to Iraq.
"Operations in Iraq are not without risk, and it doesn't matter where you are in that country ... They've attacked other coalition partners besides the United States and the United Kingdom," Myers, said.
Nevertheless, "it says to international terrorists that we understand these risks we, Japan, understand these risks and we're willing to be there to do our part to make the world a safer place and to give some hope to these 25 million Iraqis who lived under horrible conditions for many decades."
Ukrainian soldiers fired into the air in Kut yesterday to disperse hundreds of Iraqis who rioted for jobs and food. It was the second southern Shiite Muslim city rocked by rioting since Saturday. ... At least two mortar shells exploded near the Baghdad Hotel in the center of the capital last night. No casualties were reported. ... The Pentagon is extending tours of duty in Iraq for about 1,500 soldiers, mainly helicopter and other transportation-support personnel, for up to 60 days, defense officials said yesterday.
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