Iraqi elections hang in doubt amid continuing violence

Despite mounting violence in Iraq, the interim Iraqi government and Washington insisted that the elections be held as scheduled, while some political parties favored delayed elections and Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Shaalanadmitted a postponement of the vote was possible.

Some of Iraqi political parties asked to postpone the vote for up to six months as the present security situation would not allowthe holding of free and fair elections. But the opposition argued that there was no guarantee for the improvement of the security conditions even if the elections were delayed.

Fareed Ayar, the official spokesman for the Higher Commission of Elections in Iraq, said "who would guarantee that the security conditions would improve after six months, for example, and that there is not a law that would allow the postponement of the elections".

Three extremist Islamic groups already threatened in a statement published on their website that everyone taking part in the elections would be "putting his life in danger".

Interim Iraqi Minister of Defense Hazim Shaalan, in Cairo for medical treatment, admitted Monday that putting off the Iraqi elections was possible so that all Iraqis could vote.

Iraq has asked Egypt to help convince the Sunni sect in Iraq totake part in the Jan. 30 elections. The largest Sunni Muslim political group in Iraq announced last week that it would not participate in the elections, citing relentless violence and inadequate time for preparation.

However, other Iraqi officials and the United States have vowedto hold the elections as scheduled, although violence persists between US-Iraqi forces and insurgents.

The United States said Monday that it sticks to the timetable scheduled for Iraq's nationwide elections on Jan. 30 despite callsfor a delay.

"It is our understanding that the independent electoral commission and the Iraqi interim government remain of the view that elections need to be held on Jan. 30, and we are certainly proceeding on that assumption," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said at a news briefing.

"It is a decision that the Iraqis are going to make. And to this point they have said that they want to have them on Jan. 30, and that is something that we are supporting," Ereli said.

US President George W. Bush has vowed to hold Iraq's elections as scheduled.

However, with the increase of violence in Iraq, doubt has risenabout the possibility of holding the first post-Saddam elections on Jan. 30.

The suicide bombing attack Monday on the headquarters of the National Accord Movement, headed by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawy, took place only one hour before a press conference to announce the candidates of the movement for the elections.

Six members of Iraq's National Guard were killed and four others wounded Monday in two roadside bomb attacks in Tikrit, hometown of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the leading Shiite Muslim party and a major contender in the Iraqi elections, escaped an assassination attemptlast week.

Insurgents mounted daily attacks on Iraqi police and National Guards who will have to protect polling stations during Iraq's elections.

The Al Qaeda allied group led by Jordanian extremist Abu MussabAl Zarqawi recently released a video showing the killing of five members of the National Guard by armed men.

The repeated suicide bomb attacks bring into question the ability of the interim Iraqi government to protect the voters on Jan. 30 since it is expected that widespread attacks could culminate to disrupt the elections, observers said.

Source: Xinhua



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