24 September 2004 -- The U.S. State Department says elections planned for January 2005 in Iraq must be "open to all citizens."
The comment by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage contradicts Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's statement yesterday that some violent areas of Iraq could be excluded from the elections.
Rumsfeld said that if there are areas too dangerous for people to vote, it would be preferable to hold an election in "three-quarters or four-fifths of the country" than hold no election at all.
But Armitage told a House of Representatives committee, after being asked about Rumsfeld's words, that partial elections are not under consideration.
In Baghdad today, Hamid Khaffaf, a spokesman for Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said all Iraqis should be able to vote.
Khaffaf, in an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, also said al-Sistani insists on a crucial UN role in the elections and that the polls must be held on time.