Iraqi minister says poll may be delayed
MILITANTS continued their campaign to disrupt Iraqi elections yesterday, detonating a series of bombs and killing at least 16 people.
In a further setback to the elections planned to be held on 30 January, Hazim al-Shaalan, Iraq’s defence minister, said he favoured delaying the poll if Sunni Muslims were not planning to take part.
Mr Shaalan said Iraq was asking Egypt to intervene to try to persuade the Sunnis to vote.
"If there is any difficulty in them taking part, then the question of postponing them [the elections] for another period arises. That, I believe, is the safest and most proper way, so that all sectors and the full spectrum of Iraqi society can take part in elections on one day," he said.
Several Iraqi groups, mainly Sunnis, have argued in favour of postponing the elections. The once-privileged minority faces the prospect of the vote cementing the new-found political power of the long-oppressed Shiite majority.
Two of yesterday’s deadly attacks were centred in the restive Sunni heartland north of Baghdad, raising further questions among Iraqis about how the country’s fledgling security forces will be able to protect voters if they can barely protect themselves.
Baghdad was rocked by two further explosions, including one detonated by a suicide bomber posing as a taxi driver who killed two policemen and a civilian near the party headquarters of Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister.
The secular Shiite leader was not inside the building in Baghdad’s western district of Harithiya when the blast occurred.
The second car bomb attack took place in Balad, about 50 miles north of the capital. It killed four Iraqi National Guard soldiers and wounded 14. The driver of the car bomb died in the blast.
The third strike occurred in Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, killing at least six National Guard troops and injuring four others in a roadside explosion, police said.
A car bomb exploded later yesterday at a United States-manned checkpoint at the entrance to Green Zone, the heavily fortified area that houses the US Embassy and Iraqi government offices.
US troops surrounded a burning four-wheel-drive vehicle at the scene and three bodies were seen burning inside. The nationalities of the victims were not immediately known.
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