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Iraqi PM Stresses Security Priority Ahead Of Vote

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (file photo) 18 January 2005 -- Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said today that security remains his government's top priority in the run-up to the 30 January national and provincial elections.

Allawi, speaking in Baghdad and echoing statements earlier in the day from a senior electoral official, said Iraq's borders must be secured to prevent the flow of foreign insurgents.

"Security is our main priority," Allawi said. "We must defeat terrorism in our country and terrorism coming from outside our borders and secure our borders in a way that prevents these criminals from infiltrating our country."

Farid Ayar of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission earlier today announced plans to close Iraq's borders, extend nighttime curfews, and restrict movement inside the country during the voting.

U.S. General John Sattler said today that elections will be held in the Sunni-insurgency centers of Al-Fallujah and Ramadi but declined to give details for security reasons.

A suicide car bomber struck the Baghdad offices of the leading Shi'ite political party in Iraq today, leaving two people killed along with the attacker.

Elsewhere, the Vatican said kidnappers have released a Catholic archbishop who was abducted in Mosul yesterday.

Also, insurgents released a video today that shows eight Chinese being held hostage in Iraq, demanding that the Chinese government clarify its presence in that country.


[For news, background, and analysis on Iraq's 30 January provincial and national elections, see RFE/RL's dedicated Iraq Votes 2005 website.]