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Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
U.S. says it'll limit Islam's role
BAGHDAD, Iraq Iraq's U.S. administrator suggested yesterday he would block any move by Iraqi leaders to make Islamic law the backbone of an interim constitution.
During a visit to a women's center in Karbala, administrator L. Paul Bremer said the current draft of the interim constitution, due to take effect at the end of this month, would make Islam the state religion and "a source of inspiration for the law," but not the main source for that law.
However, Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, president of the Iraqi Governing Council and a Sunni Muslim hard-liner, has proposed making Islamic law, or Shariah, the "principal basis" of legislation.
Iraqi women's groups fear that could cost them the rights they hold under Iraq's longtime secular system, especially in such areas as divorce, child support and inheritance.
Bremer was asked what would happen if Iraqi leaders wrote into the interim charter that Shariah is the principal basis of legislation. "Our position is clear," Bremer replied. "It can't be law until I sign it."
Under most interpretations of Islamic law, women's rights to seek divorce are strictly limited and they receive only half the inheritance of men. Islamic law also allows for polygamy and often permits marriage of girls at a younger age than does secular law.
5 suspected of having role in assassination arrested
BAGHDAD, Iraq Police have arrested five Iraqis suspected in the assassination of Aquila al-Hashimi, a member of Iraq's Governing Council who was gunned down last year as she drove from her Baghdad home, the Interior Ministry said yesterday.
The men were arrested 10 days ago in Amarah, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad, Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Kadhum Ibrahim said. They were arrested for using drugs, but police uncovered "indications" they may have been involved in the al-Hashimi assassination, he said. Police were investigating the possible connection.
Al-Hashimi, a Shiite, was one of three women on the 25-member Governing Council and was seen as a likely future Iraqi envoy to the United Nations.
WASHINGTON Halliburton said yesterday it would defer billing for an additional $140 million in meals for U.S. forces in Iraq and Kuwait until a discrepancy is reconciled between the number of meals ordered and those actually served.
The Houston oil-services company is the biggest contractor for the U.S. military in Iraq, with more than $8 billion in contracts.
Its contracts have drawn intense scrutiny from Democrats because of its ties with Vice President Dick Cheney, who ran the company from 1995 until 2000.
Last week, Halliburton said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it had agreed to delay billing for $34.5 million while Defense Department auditors weigh whether its subcontractors overcharged for meals in Iraq and Kuwait.
The company has also been in the spotlight over whether it overcharged as much as $61 million for fuel delivered to Iraq. Kuwait's Parliament formed a committee yesterday to investigate the contracts involved in those fuel deliveries in which a Halliburton subsidiary, state-owned Kuwait Petroleum and a separate Kuwaiti firm participated.
An international conference will convene in Abu Dhabi Feb. 28-29 to start channeling up to $15 billion of aid pledged to reconstruct Iraq, Iraq's Planning Minister Mehdi al-Hafedh said yesterday. ... Saadoun Hammadi, 74, longtime Saddam Hussein ally and former speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, has been released after nine months in U.S. custody, his relatives told Al-Jazeera television yesterday; U.S. officials had no comment. ... There is no evidence the Australian government "sexed up" its case for war on Iraq, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today. Australia was one of the first countries to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, sending 2,000 military personnel.
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