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Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Iraq Notebook
Leaders fear interference from Iran


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WASHINGTON — The leaders of Iraq and Jordan warned yesterday that Iran is trying to influence the Iraqi elections scheduled for Jan. 30 to create an Islamic government that would dramatically shift the geopolitical balance between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the Middle East.

Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer charged that Iran is coaching candidates and political parties sympathetic to Iran and pouring "huge amounts of money" into the campaign to produce a Shiite-dominated government similar to Iran's.

Jordanian King Abdullah said more than 1 million Iranians have crossed the 910-mile border into Iraq, many to vote in the election — with the encouragement of the Iranian government.

The king also charged Iranians are paying salaries and providing welfare to unemployed Iraqis to build pro-Iranian public sentiment. Some Iranians, he added, have been trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and are members of militias that could fuel trouble in Iraq after the election.

If pro-Iran parties or politicians dominate the new Iraqi government, Abdullah said, a new "crescent" of dominant Shiite movements or governments stretching from Iran into Iraq, Syria and Lebanon could emerge and present new challenges to U.S. interests and allies.

Iran and Iraq have Shiite majorities. But modern Iraq, formed after World War I, has been ruled by its Sunni minority. Syria is ruled by the minority Allawites, an offshoot of Shiism. Shiites are the largest of 17 recognized sects in Lebanon, and Hezbollah is a major Shiite political party with the only active militia.

U.S. death toll in November highest of any month

WASHINGTON — One hundred thirty-six U.S. troops were killed in Iraq in November, the highest monthly total of the war, fueled by casualties from the offensive to seize Fallujah from insurgents, the Pentagon said yesterday.

The previous highest U.S. military monthly death count was 135 in April.

Other Pentagon figures released yesterday listed 1,274 U.S. military deaths since the March 2003 invasion to topple President Saddam Hussein. In addition, 9,765 U.S. troops have been wounded in action, more than 5,200 of them too severely to return to duty, the Pentagon added.
 
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The U.S. military has said more than 70 American troops were killed in Fallujah operations launched Nov. 8.

Court-martial set over driver's death

BERLIN — A U.S. tank company commander accused of killing a critically injured Iraqi driver for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will be court-martialed, an Army spokesman said yesterday.

Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, 29, of Chicago will be tried on charges of assault with intent to commit murder and dereliction of duty, which carry a maximum combined sentence of 20-1/2 years, said Maj. Michael Indovina.

In Iraq, meanwhile, a final witness testified yesterday in a separate case of a U.S. soldier, who is accused of murdering an Iraqi man and making a false statement regarding the incident.

The U.S. military said a decision is expected by Sunday on whether to court-martial Spc. Brent May, 22, of Salem, Ohio, who is charged with the August murder of an Iraqi civilian in Baghdad's impoverished Sadr City.

Chem dealer linked to Saddam faces trial

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Prosecutors said yesterday they will charge a Dutch chemicals dealer as an accomplice to genocide for supplying Saddam Hussein with lethal chemicals used in the 1988 attack on a Kurdish town that killed an estimated 5,000 civilians.

Prosecutors said Frans van Anraat, 62, had been a suspect since 1989, when he was arrested in Milan, Italy, at the request of the U.S. government. But he was later released and fled to Iraq, where he remained until 2003. After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, he returned to the Netherlands via Syria.

The United Nations suspects van Anraat was a major chemical supplier to Saddam's regime, having made 36 separate shipments, including mustard gas and nerve gas originating from the United States and Japan, prosecutors said.

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