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Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Insists On January Elections

Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani (file photo) 24 September 2004 -- Iraq's top Shi'a cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is insisting elections promised for January must be held on time.

The spokesman for al-Sistani, Hamid Khaffaf, said today in an interview with RFE/RL that al-Sistani insists on a crucial UN role in the elections.

"Mr. al-Sistani insists on the following: First, elections should be held in its due time as scheduled. Second, he affirms and insists that the UN should play a crucial and a key role in monitoring elections so those elections can be credible and transparent and people of Iraq can be truly and really represented in legislative and constitutional councils," Khaffaf said.

The spokesman said al-Sistani hopes that all Iraqis across the country will participate in the voting.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday said the elections might not take place in areas of the country where violence is still rampant.

Also yesterday, Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, in a speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, said some 14 of 18 Iraq's provinces "are completely safe."


Related stories: "U.S. Defense Chief Says Iraqi Voting Might Be Limited" and "Visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Thanks U.S."

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