Tuesday, December 27, 2005


AP: 10K protest against Iraqi religious Shiite majority - Dec. 27

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer - 40 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - More than 10,000 people backing Sunni Arab and secular Shiite politicians marched through Baghdad on Tuesday in support of a national unity government. Attacks on security forces continued, with five Iraqi police and two bystanders killed.

Officials said insurgents were trying to deepen the political turmoil surrounding the contested vote. Preliminary figures have given a big lead to the religious Shiite bloc that controls the current interim government.

The fresh violence came as three opposition groups threatened a wave of protests and civil disobedience if fraud charges are not properly investigated. The warning came from the secular Iraqi National List, headed by former Shiite Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, below left, and two Sunni Arab groups.

Former PM AllawiMore than 10,000 people, some carrying photos of Allawi, demonstrated in Baghdad in favor of a government that would give more power to Sunni Arabs and secular Shiites. Marches chanted "No Sunnis, no Shiites, yes for national unity."  Iraq's Electoral Commission said Monday that final results for the 275-seat parliament could be released in about a week.

Sunni Arab and secular Shiite factions are demanding that an international body review more than 1,500 complaints, warning they may boycott the new legislature. They also want new elections in some provinces, including Baghdad. The United Nations has rejected an outside review.

"We will resort to peaceful options, including protests, civil disobedience and a boycott of the political process until our demands are met," said Hassan Zaidan al-Lahaibi of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Front for National Dialogue. He spoke in neighboring Jordan, where representatives of the groups have met in recent days.

The election commission considers 35 of the complaints serious enough to change some local results. But Farid Ayar, a commission official, said there was no reason to cancel the entire election.

He also said preliminary results from early votes by soldiers, hospital patients, prisoners and overseas Iraqis showed a coalition of Kurdish parties and the main Shiite religious bloc each taking about a third. Those nearly 500,000 votes were not expected to alter overall results significantly.

Preliminary results previously released gave the United Iraqi Alliance, the religious Shiite coalition dominating the current government, a big lead — but one unlikely to allow it to govern without forming a coalition with other groups.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.
Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
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