[R-G] Unemployed Iraqis clash with troops; Shiite leader demands right to elect parliament
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Jan 12 07:23:30 MST 2004
Impatient Iraqis Rally Against Coalition
Jan 11, 3:02 PM (ET)
By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD
AMARAH, Iraq (AP) - Impatience with Iraq's occupying forces boiled
over Sunday as unemployed Iraqis pelted British troops with stones and
a top Shiite Muslim cleric demanded the country's next parliament be
elected - not chosen by local caucuses, as foreseen by the Americans.
Also Sunday, a U.S.-backed Iraqi politician said an ongoing purge of
members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party had pushed 28,000 Iraqis from
their jobs, with a similar number expected to follow.
In the southern city of Amarah, waves of protesters - some armed with
sticks and shovels - rushed British troops guarding the city hall, a
day after clashes here killed six protesters and wounded at least 11.
The British drove the crowd back from the compound, which also houses
the U.S.-led occupation force and the 1st Battalion of Britain's Light
Infantry. Booms and flashes of light from makeshift bombs exploded in
"We are trying to permit a peaceful protest but prevent loss of life
or damage to property," said British Maj. Johnny Bowron.
Tensions in Amarah, 200 miles, southeast of Baghdad, erupted Saturday
after hundreds of Iraqis gathered to protest that authorities had not
kept a promise to give them jobs. On Sunday, demonstrators said they
were looking to avenge those killed Saturday. There were no reports of
injuries on Sunday.
Demonstrators sent a representative to talk to British and Iraqi
officials, who promised them 8,000 jobs, according to witnesses. But
protesters said a similar promise made weeks before had not been
fulfilled and the clash ensued. Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of
Iraq, Saddam's security forces were the biggest employer in this city
Sunday's comments by Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali
al-Husseini al-Sistani, could complicated American plans to hand over
sovereignty to the Iraqis by July 1.
Al-Sistani, whose views are highly influential among Iraq's Shiite
majority, said the current U.S. plan to have regional caucuses select
members of a provisional national assembly would give birth to an
illegitimate Iraqi government.
"This will, in turn, give rise to new problems and the political and
security situation will deteriorate," al-Sistani said in a statement
released by his office in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, south of
Al-Sistani demanded the assembly be directly elected, saying credible
elections could be held in Iraq within months.
Al-Sistani also balked at U.S. plans to seek quick approval for the
continued occupation of Iraq through its hand-picked Governing
Council. The ayatollah said only an elected government could sign off
on the presence of U.S. troops beyond July 1.
Al-Sistani's opposition forced the Americans to change their
transition plans once already. Participation by Shiites - who make up
60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people - is essential to the success
of the transition.
But drafting a new plan to accommodate his views would make Washington
look like it is allowing its Iraq policies to be held hostage to the
wishes of one man. It also would further anger Iraq's minority Sunnis
who had dominated politics in Iraq for decades and are bristling at
the attention given now to the Shiites they have traditionally
Meanwhile, tens of thousands more former high-level Baathists are set
to lose their jobs in ongoing purges, said Governing Council member
Ahmad Chalabi, a favorite of the Pentagon who heads a committee aimed
at ridding Iraq of the influence of Saddam's party.
For Chalabi, the idea of reconciliation with top Baathists is a
"How can you reconcile those laying dead in mass graves with those who
killed them? We can only talk about forgiveness," Chalabi told
U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer dissolved and banned the Baath party
in May, a month after U.S. forces swept into Baghdad to remove Saddam
from power and end 35 years of the party's rule.
In the northern city of Mosul on Sunday, U.S. soldiers arrested four
men accused of working for the top fugitive in Iraq as rebel
The four were paying insurgents to attack U.S. troops on behalf of
Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of Saddam's former chief lieutenants, said
Maj. Trey Cate, spokesman for the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.
U.S. officials have issued $10 million bounty on al-Douri, who has
taken the spot as the most wanted man in Iraq since Saddam's capture.
Elsewhere, U.S. troops arrested a Saddam loyalist Sunday suspected in
last month's shooting of an American soldier, who was saved by his
The shot soldier, Sgt. Jeffrey Allen of Leitchfield, Ky., arrested the
man in a raid on the Iraqi's home in Tikrit, launched after a
neighbor's tip, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the U.S. Army's 4th
Also Sunday, authorities said the body of an Iraqi working with the
U.S.-led coalition was found in the southern city of Basra, along with
the corpse of another man not associated with the coalition.
Insurgents opposed to the U.S.-led occupation have targeted soldiers
as well as civilians and Iraqi police working with the occupiers.
In Baghdad, two Estonian soldiers suffered minor injuries when a
grenade was thrown at their patrol on Saturday, according to Estonian
army spokesman Peeter Tali.
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