17 January 2005 -- Gunmen today killed eight Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint and a suicide car bomber killed eight people at a police station. There were also attacks on polling stations today, with elections less than two weeks away.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, said today that violence on the 30 January election day is unavoidable and will likely continue even after the voting.
As exiled Iraqis in 14 countries today began registering to vote, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said UN officials have completed technical preparations for the elections.
"As far as we are concerned, all the technical preparations are ready," Annan said. "We have done everything that we need to do to help the elections go forward. Obviously the situation is far from ideal."
The attacks on Iraqi polling stations happened in the southern town of Musayib and the northern city of Mosul.
Also in Mosul today, a Catholic archbishop was kidnapped. The Vatican called it "a terrorist act" and asked that the man be freed immediately.
In other developments, the Netherlands announced it will pull its 1,400 troops out of southern Iraq on 15 March. And Romania announced it is sending 100 more soldiers to Iraq to help protect UN staffers during the election.
(AP/AFP/Reuters)For the latest news and analysis on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".