Iraq elections to go ahead on schedule, says interim premier

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13 / 09 / 2004, PARIS ( AFP ) — Iraq's elections will go ahead as scheduled in January even if some Iraqis are unable to vote due to the security situation in the country, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said in an interview published in the several western daily newspapers.

The Iraqi leader acknowledged that there were currently problems in his country, especially in the violence-wracked city of Fallujah, but said these would not prevent the elections being held.

In the interview, published in several British and US dailies as well as in the French paper Le Figaro, Allawi declared: "If for any reason 300,000 people cannot have an election, cannot vote because terrorists decide so, then frankly 300,000 people... is not going to alter 25 million people voting."

Foto : Minister Iyad Allawi

If the elections were prevented in the flashpoint city of Fallujah -- where US military strikes were again underway on Monday -- its inhabitants could vote later, the prime minister said.

"Militias have to disband. Criminals have to be surrendered to the government. Foreign fighters have to be surrendered and the Iraqi police and national guard have to be fully deployed in Fallujah," he added.

His government was "determined to win the war against the terrorists, and establish democracy in Iraq," said, who was appointed last June when the United States put in place an interim Iraqi administration to run the country until the elections.

The Iraqi premier also said he expected the captured former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to go on trial before the end of the year.

He said he hoped the trial would help establish a clear distinction between members of Saddam's Baath Party who committed crimes during his rule, and those who simply joined the party because they had to. Of former Baath Party officials who did not commit crimes, he said: "We are not interested in pursuing them. They should be part of the civil society of Iraq, part of the political process."

Meanwhile at least 45 people died in a wave of bombings and battles between US troops and rebels on Sunday as the United States expressed confidence the violence would not halt the elections.

Loyalists of alleged Al-Qaeda chief in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, claimed attacks on the heavily fortified central Baghdad compound housing the government and the US embassy and on the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States was confident elections could be held in Iraq on schedule despite the insurgency.

"There is an insurgency raging. We see it every day, there's no question about it," Powell said on the NBC television program "Meet the Press." "This is a difficult time as this insurgency still rages and as we work to bring it under control.

"But it will be brought under control," he said. "It's not an impossible task, and when it has been brought under control you will find that the forces that keep Iraq together are stronger than the forces that would pull it apart.

"When that insurgency is put down, what the people of the world will see are Iraqis in charge of their own destiny," Powell said.


Source: AFP









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