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Iraq Report: December 19, 2004

19 December 2004, Volume 7, Number 46
CAMPAIGN SEASON UNDER WAY IN IRAQ. Campaign season is officially under way in Iraq as political parties vie for support ahead of Iraq's national elections in January. Independent Iraqi Election Commission spokesman Farid Ayar told reporters in Baghdad on 13 December that the commission had received 70 electoral lists from political parties, groupings, and independent candidates vying to compete for the 275 parliamentary seats in January's national elections. The commission had received at least six lists representing coalition slates -- lists grouping a number of parties and candidates together -- while about 65 other lists represented independent parties and individuals, he said. The deadline to register passed on 15 December. "RFE/RL Iraq Report" looks at some of the candidate lists.

Constitutional Monarchy Movement. Headed by Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, the party announced on 12 December that it has submitted a 275 member list to the Electoral Commission. Details of the list are not known. Al-Husayn is the cousin of the deposed Iraqi king, Faysal II, who was killed in the 1958 coup in Iraq. The movement was one of seven opposition groups to receive financial support from the United States prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, the group was not afforded a seat on the interim Governing Council, much to the chagrin of al-Husayn.

Independent Iraqi Democrats Movement. Led by veteran statesman and interim National Assembly member Adnan Pachachi, the group has joined with other entities to form a unified list. Pachachi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq on 12 December that the list includes Kurdish, Arab, Sunni, Shi'a, Christian, Turkoman, and Sabean candidates. Al-Sharqiyah television reported on 15 December that candidates on the list include Electricity Minister Iyham al-Samarra'i; Culture Ministry Undersecretary Maysun al-Damaluji; Al-Sadr City notables Jalal al-Mashitah and Imad Jasim; Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafiz; Housing Minister Umar al-Faruq al-Damaluji; Labor and Social Affairs Minister Layla Abd-al-Latif; Environment Minister Mishkat al-Mu'min; and interim National Assembly member Sa'd Abd al-Razzaq. Abd al-Razzaq is a member of Pachachi's party and served as the latter's representative in Al-Fallujah when Pachachi served on the Governing Council.

Iraqiyun (Iraqis). Established by interim President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, the list was announced at a 1 December press conference broadcast on Al-Arabiyah television. Al-Yawir said the list "Is tantamount to a grouping for all the sons of Iraq from the different religions, sects, nationalities, and social classes." It supports the idea of a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal state, and advocates a national dialogue. "This [political] entity will be part of a team made up of several political entities and parties in the Iraqi arena," al-Yawir said. The president declined to name the parties and individuals affiliated with his party, saying the membership will be announced soon.

Iraqi Islamic Party. Sunni political party led by Secretary-General Dr. Muhsin Abd-al-Hamid (who served on the Iraqi Governing Council) and by Assistant Secretary-General Iyad Al-Samarra'i. Although ideologically similar to the Muslim Brotherhood, top officials within the Iraqi Islamic Party insist that no formal association exists between the two groups. The party was established in the late 1950s and operated clandestine armed groups, at one time purported to have some 2,000 armed members. The group has claimed that it is amenable to a federalist system, wherein the Kurdish region of Iraq would enjoy a degree of autonomy. The party, which operates Dar al-Salam Radio, said in a 7 June 2004 broadcast that it supported the interim Iraqi government, despite not being afforded a position within the government. However, its stance changed in recent months and the party boycotted the interim government and participation in January elections, which it claimed would be illegitimate under occupation. Party officials in recent weeks demanded that elections be postponed. However, the Independent Electoral Commission announced that the party registered a candidate list during the first week in December. Some party members said that the party was reserving its right to participate, while other members continued to deny that the party would participate.

Iraqi List. Led by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the list is reportedly comprised of leading tribal figures. Details of the list are sketchy. Speaking to reporters at a 15 December press conference, Allawi pledged to work for national unity and move away from "religious and ethnic fanaticism," AP reported. "By depending on God, and with a firm determination and based on strong confidence in the abilities of our people, we are capable of confronting the difficulties and challenges and of making a bright future for our honorable people." There are unconfirmed Iraqi media reports that the Iraqi List may be merged with interim President Ghazi al-Yawir's Iraqiyun list.

Iraqi National Unity Grouping. Led by 35-year-old Nihru Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Kasanzan al-Husayni, the grouping calls for a national reconciliation among Iraqi ethnic and political groups. He believes that Kirkuk should be a city for all ethnic groups, and claims to have good relations with Kurdish, Arab, and Turkoman parties. He supports a federal Kurdistan. Al-Husayni told "Al-Mashriq" in an 8 December interview that his party did not join the Governing Council "because we felt that this council posed a danger that would entrench abhorrent sectarianism and unleash the hand of political groups that want to meddle in the future of Iraq." Al-Husayni claims that his party lost 50 members who either were killed or disappeared under the regime of Saddam Hussein; he added that members of his family were arrested. He is the son of Sheikh Muhammad al-Kasanzan al-Husayni, who leads the Qadiriyah Al-Kasanzaniyah religious school. Al-Husayni has said that his party will contest January elections on an independent list, rather than forming an alliance with other political parties.

Kurdish Unity List. Iraq's two main Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), announced on 1 December that they would run a joint list called the Kurdish Unity List. KDP leader Mas'ud Barzani and PUK head Jalal Talabani addressed the media following a meeting in Salah Al-Din that was broadcast on Kurdistan Satellite Television the same day. Barzani called the agreement "historic," adding, "We have decided to enter both the [parliamentary] elections in Iraq and the [parliamentary] elections in Kurdistan on a joint list." He noted that smaller parties allied with the Kurdish groups will be included on what he termed the "broad national list."

Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party. The party, headed by Fay'iq Muhammad Ahmad Kubi, announced that it will field candidates in both the national and Kurdistan parliament elections on an independent list. The party was founded in 2002 and is an offshoot of the former Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. The party's public relations chief, Diyar Gharib, told "Al-Manar al-Yawm" in an interview published on 9 October that his party is "a democratic party that relies on democratic dialogue." "We are intellectuals from Iraqi Kurdistan and principally intellectuals from all of Iraq who initially tried to form an intellectual group so as to be able to participate in the activities that are taking place throughout Iraq." He claimed that his party attempted to participate in August's interim National Assembly election but, mysteriously, its delegate list was never received.

People's Union List. The Iraqi Communist Party announced on 11 December that it would participate in elections under the name People's Union list. Party head Hamid Majid Musa, an interim National Assembly member and former Governing Council member, said in a statement that the party's list is an independent list that includes the names of 257 cultural, social, and democratic figures.

United Iraqi Alliance. Organized at the behest of Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the alliance was announced on 9 December. It is a coalition of 22 political parties and groups, including candidates from the two largest Shi'ite political parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party. Other candidates on the list reportedly include Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi, as well as Sunni, Kurdish, Yezidi, and Turkoman groups, as well as the Al-Shammar tribe. The tribe is comprised of both Sunni and Shi'a members. Rebel Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Al-Sadr II Movement will reportedly not officially join the list, but it was reported that the movement's representatives will be listed as independent candidates on it. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

INTERVIEW: PACHACHI ON UPCOMING ELECTIONS. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interviewed interim National Assembly member Adnan Pachachi in Baghdad on 12 December. Pachachi discussed upcoming national elections in January, and his party's participation in them.

RFI: With the upcoming elections in Iraq, a number of Iraqi political parties and groups have started to present their candidate lists in order to enter the election campaign. The Independent Iraqi Democrats movement, led by Adnan Pachachi, has presented the list of their candidates that encompasses various elements of Iraqi society, as Pachachi, president of the group, told us.

PACHACHI: Our candidates' list is in fact a list of the group, of the Movement of Independent Democrats, and of other personalities [that] aims to include all elements of the Iraqi people. It will not be any sectarian list. There will not be a Shi'ite majority or a Sunni majority. In fact, I myself do not know who is a Sunni and who is a Shi'ite on the list. I do not know that and I do not want to know that because I see all Iraqis as equal and I do not want to make a difference between one Iraqi and another Iraqi on grounds of religion, religious stream, or even ethnicity, or racial origin, or matters of this kind. We are all Iraqis and, irrespective of our religious, ethnic, or sectarian allegiance, we are one people. For this reason, our candidate list includes everybody. There are Shi'ites, Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Turkomans, Sabeans -- all, all representatives are listed. In fact, I do not know whether a given person [from the list] is a Sunni or a Shi'ite, I even do not know whether the person is an Arab or a Kurd.

RFI: What is your opinion on the Shi'ite list that was presented recently?

PACHACHI: I have not studied the list yet in all its details. But anyhow, it is a right of anyone, any party, any coalition of parties, any group -- to present [its own candidates] -- this is democracy.... In my opinion, for the correctness of the election it is necessary to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to choose various candidate lists with a clear profile in particular things, who have certain principles and beliefs. Only they [the Iraqis] will choose. I mean, there should be a real choice.

But if there are candidate lists including parties and groups that in fact oppose each other in many things, this will not let any broad space for the Iraqi people to choose. For example, a list that includes a group of secular, even to an extreme, communists or nationalists and [at the same time] a group that has, for instance, religious and antisocialist outlooks -- if all these are put on one list, there will not be free space to choose. It can be [in such a case], for instance, that someone agrees with the socialists and does not agree with the capitalists.... The candidate list must be compact, the people choose, and only then the alliances can be made.

RFI: Do you think that the feminists' candidate list can, for an Iraqi citizen, fulfill the expectations from democracy?

PACHACHI: Yes, the voting system is excellent because it is really democratic and it does not make any vote lost. If there were, for example, an election based on electoral districts, all votes that are given to the losing candidate [in that district] get lost. Now, not even a single voice gets lost. A proportion of those votes from the total counts. All Iraq will make one single electoral territory, so that there is no discrimination between one and another region, and so forth. In this way, the election will be democratic and free, only on condition the space is offered some time in advance so that broad participation is achieved. Without broad participation, there will be no real election.

RFI: Will the Iraqi people be surprised by the results of the election, as was the case during the formation of the interim Iraqi government?

PACHACHI: No, no, now the way of voting or choosing the Iraqi government is clear. According to the Transitional Administrative Law, it is up to the National Assembly to choose from one list a candidate for the president of the republic and two other candidates for the vice president [from the same list]. After that, the presidential body names the prime minister who has to receive the agreement of the National Assembly, too. Such is the matter. In this way, the process of choosing the cabinet is clear.

RFI INTERVIEWS MEMBER OF KURDISTAN REFERENDUM MOVEMENT. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq's (RFI) Al-Sulaymaniyah correspondent interviewed a member of the Kurdistan Referendum Movement in northern Iraq on 8 December. Kner Abdullah said her party has undertaken a number of activities across Kurdistan in order to present itself as a viable political party.

RFI: Please tell us about the status of the [Referendum] Movement and its current work.

ABDULLAH: The movement currently works on delivering the signatures that were put together by a delegation who will represent the [Referendum] Movement abroad, where it will give them to the European Union, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. president, the British prime minister, the Office of the UN Secretary-General, all human rights organizations, all presidents of the states whom it may concern, and the Arab League.

RFI: What is the purpose of collecting the signatures?

ABDULLAH: The purpose is to deliver the Kurdish voice to the civilized world. The only thing we demand is conducting a general referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and finding out what the Kurds want through a free plebiscite. We do not take any premature decisions before we know the results of the referendum.

RFI: There have been some rumors related to the Referendum Movement, such as [the claim] that it demands [Kurdish] independence….What is your opinion on the matter, [speaking as] one of the leading members of the movement?

ABDULLAH: In this respect, the [Referendum] Movement does not demand the separation [of Kurdistan from Iraq], it was only the biased satellite stations and some radios that did broadcast this claim and thus have damaged the movement. It is an independent movement composed from personalities of politics, social life, culture, and law, among whom one is different from another.

RFI: What plan for the future does the High Committee of the [Referendum] Movement have?

ABDULLAH: As for such a plan, we want during the Iraqi general elections the presence of international observers and all kinds of media who would report on the transparency of the elections. We say: this is the election of the Iraqi National Assembly, so the [Referendum] Movement urges there be no interventions from the states of the region, so that the Iraqi people are left entirely free to express their opinion.

RFI: Do you want to add any conclusive remark on the subject?

ABDULLAH: As it is known, last year we presented a list of signatures from the Kurdish people to the [Iraqi] Governing Council and to the coalition forces. But until now, we have not received any reaction that would deserve a mention. Even the Iraqi officials who have been preaching democracy have not questioned, or asked, the Kurdish people what they call for and what they want with respect to [determining] their destiny. That is our pain. We, as the [Referendum] Movement in Kurdistan, demand that the voice of the people be heard. Thank you.

GOVERNMENT WEBSITES UP AND RUNNING. Several ministries have launched websites in recent months. Some of the websites provide a plethora of useful information, while others have not been updated for some time. The Foreign Ministry website is quite useful, providing information on embassies and consulates, and press releases on official travel abroad. The Oil Ministry's website provides detailed information on tenders, and the Central Bank website provides information on monetary policy and banking laws.

Central Bank:

Communication Ministry:

Construction and Housing Ministry:

Education Ministry:

Electricity Ministry:

Foreign Affairs Ministry:

Health Ministry:

Oil Ministry:

Trade Ministry:

Transportation Ministry:

The Communications and Media Commission:

The Independent Iraqi Electoral Commission:

JAPANESE CABINET APPROVES $95 MILLION BUDGET FOR IRAQ. The Japanese cabinet on 14 December approved a 9.9 billion-yen (about $95 million) budget to support an extended aid mission for some 600 Self-Defense Forces in Iraq, Kyodo World Service reported. The cabinet recently extended the Japanese mission to Iraq through 14 December 2005 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 10 December 2004). The mission focuses on reconstruction and humanitarian operations in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Samawah. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he believes that the Iraqi people and government support his country's mission, saying, "We will have to continue the operations that will be appreciated by the Iraqi people," Kyodo reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

'CHEMICAL ALI' TO BE TRIED FIRST. Iraqi judges began interrogating Saddam Hussein's former defense minister, as well as the notorious general known as "Chemical Ali" on 18 December in Baghdad.

Raad al-Juhyi, the head of a judiciary panel charged with investigating former regime officials, told reporters that the questioning of "Chemical Ali," whose real name is Ali Hassan al-Majid, and Hussein's last defense chief, Sultan Hashim Ahmad has started. Defense Minister Hazim al-Sha'lan said on 15 December that Ali Hasan al-Majid will be the first Hussein-regime official to be tried for war crimes against the Iraqi people, Reuters reported. Al-Majid, a cousin of Hussein and the former secretary-general of the Northern Bureau of Iraq's Ba'ath Party, is often referred to as "Chemical Ali" for his suppression and annihilation of Kurds in northern Iraq. He is also alleged to have played a major role in the suppression of the 1991 uprising against the regime in southern Iraq.

Human Rights Watch has said that from 1987-89 al-Majid was given "special powers" equivalent in authority to President Hussein over northern Iraq. The rights group cites the following human-rights violations carried out under al-Majid's direction over the two-year period: mass summary executions and mass disappearance of between 50,000 and 100,000 noncombatants; the widespread use of chemical weapons against the town of Halabja (killing as many as 5,000 residents) as well as dozens of Kurdish villages, killing many thousands of people, mainly women and children; the wholesale destruction of some 2,000 villages, which are described in Hussein-era government documents as having been "burned," "destroyed," "demolished," and "purified," as well as at least a dozen larger towns and administrative centers; and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of villagers.

HRW also documents audiotaped meetings held between al-Majid and his aides that depict his animosity toward the Kurds. In one meeting, al-Majid speaks about the Kurds, saying: "I will bury them with bulldozers." HRW's extensive study, "Genocide In Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds," can be accessed on the organization's website ( (Kathleen Ridolfo)

PRIME MINISTER DISCUSSES READINESS OF IRAQI SECURITY FORCES. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told Al-Sharqiyah television in a 14 December program that Iraq remains dependent on multinational forces to maintain security. "To be realistic, the security apparatuses are incapable of completely protecting the Iraqi citizens in Iraq. Based on this, the Iraqi government made a keep the multinational forces in Iraq to help preserve security, protect borders, and develop our military and security capabilities," Allawi said. "The crimes taking place are the result of the destruction that occurred in Iraq." He added that Jordan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates have all contributed weapons to the rebuilding of the Iraqi military. Asked about claims of raids on civilian residences and alleged violations of human rights carried out by multinational forces, Allawi said: "Indeed, this is not the most ideal situation. It is not an ideal situation to keep the multinational forces in the country. We were obliged to do this because the former regime was killing and harming people.... Therefore, there were violations, and there will be other violations. These violations will end when we build our Iraqi capabilities. Then, we will thank them and ask them to leave us." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

FORMER REGIME MEMBER ARRESTED. Prime Minister Allawi announced in a weekly address to Iraq's interim National Assembly on 14 December the capture last week of Izz al-Din Muhammad Hasan al-Majid, Saddam Hussein's second cousin, international media reported. Allawi did not say why al-Majid was arrested; he is not on the U.S. list of most-wanted fugitives. Al-Majid appeared to have a contentious relationship with Hussein. A member of the Republican Guard, he told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in October 2003 that he survived an assassination attempt by the regime in 1991 that killed his brother. He was arrested in 1991 because of his views on the Gulf War, was forcibly retired, and rearrested upon his return to Iraq in 1993. He fled to Jordan in 1995. His wife and four children were killed in 1996, purportedly by regime members who targeted the family after two of his cousins -- including Hussein's son-in-law, Husayn Kamil al-Majid -- defected and then returned to Iraq on the promise of a pardon by Hussein. Reuters reported on 14 December that U.S. authorities accused al-Majid in July of funding the insurgency; he has denied the charge. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

U.S. EYES SUSPECTED INSURGENTS IN SYRIA. U.S. officials said last week that they are considering increasing pressure on Syria to crack down on former Iraqi Ba'athists who they believe are orchestrating and funding the insurgency from inside Syrian territory. The pressure is part of an overall effort to put an end to the insurgency in Iraq.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of policy and planning at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Qatar, told Al-Arabiyah television in a 10 December interview: "Significant work in terms of building barricades and exchanging intelligence information has been done to tighten control along the Syrian-Iraqi borders. But, the Syrian government knows that there are people who facilitate matters inside Syria. We look forward to working jointly with Syria to root out those facilitators so that the financing of the Iraqi insurgency may be stopped."

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Al-Arabiyah in an 8 December interview that the United States plans to consult with other Middle East leaders as to whether it should apply more pressure on Syria to take action against militants crossing its border into Iraq. Armitage said that former Ba'athists from the deposed Hussein regime are funding attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces from inside Syrian territory. "I would hope the Syrians would wake up and realize that they are going to have to live side by side with an Iraq, and that they had better change their behavior now so that the future relationship with the new Iraq will be one that's congenial," Armitage said.

Armitage's comments came just one day after interviews with interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawir and Jordan's King Abdullah II were published in "The Washington Post." U.S. officials said that the insurgency is being directed to a greater degree than previously recognized from Syria. The daily cited an unidentified State Department official as saying that U.S. officials have given Syria a list of former Iraqi officials it wants arrested or expelled. King Abdullah told the newspaper that both U.S. and Iraqi officials believe that "foreign fighters are coming across the Syrian border that have been trained in Syria to fight in the insurgency."

Al-Yawir, meanwhile, told the daily that "there are people in Syria who are bad guys, who are fugitives of the law, and who are Saddam remnants who are trying to bring the vicious dictatorship of Saddam [Hussein] back." He added, "They are not minding their business or living a private life. They are...disturbing or undermining our political process."

Al-Yawir later told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 13 December that he is confident that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad does not want to see the kind of violence that is happening in Iraq spill over into his country. "When fire breaks out in your neighbor's house, you have to rush to extinguish it, not only for the neighbor's sake but also so you will not be forced to extinguish it in your house when it spreads to it," al-Yawir said. He also accused Iran of providing financial and logistical support to militants.

National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i has reportedly criticized Syria for allowing terrorists to cross its borders into Iraq, and said that funds were sent to Al-Fallujah from Damascus, Al-Arabiyah television reported on 10 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 December 2004). "Al-Hayat" cited al-Rubay'i, in a report dated the same day, as claiming to possess documents and confessions from Syrians captured in Iraq to back up his allegations.

But it appears that the interim government does not hold a united viewpoint when it comes to Syria's apparent laxity. The above-mentioned "Al-Hayat" report also cited Hassan Allawi, Iraqi ambassador-designate to Syria, as saying that Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari have set up "a team to prevent the political escalation with Syria and the publication of the confessions of Syrians who fought in Iraq." He expressed doubts about the so-called team, saying: "For how long can the team that does not believe in escalation with Syria stand fast against U.S. information about the illegal activities of Iraqi fugitives in Syria?"

The motives of Allawi and al-Zebari are unclear but likely stem from a desire to reestablish diplomatic relations with Iraq's western neighbor. Ambassador-designate Allawi told "Al-Hayat" in an interview published on 4 December that he expected diplomatic relations to be restored "soon."

Syria and Iraq reached an agreement on border protocol on 7 November. Al-Jazeera reported the same day that Syria had beefed up security measures at the Abu Kamal (Al-Qa'im) border crossing, setting up sand barriers to close the crossing. An unidentified Syrian security official told Al-Jazeera that U.S. and Iraqi troops closed the crossing on the Iraqi side of the border. Baghdad's "Al-Ittihad" on 6 November cited a Syrian customs official as saying on 4 November that Iraq had closed the Al-Walid (Al-Tanf) crossing. London's "Al-Hayat," in an 8 November report (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 15 November 2004), cited growing Syrian concerns that the violence in Iraq might spill over onto Syrian soil.

The Allawi government would also like to get its hands on funds deposited by the Hussein regime in Syrian banks. Iraqi officials have said that the money amounts to some $3 billion, while Syrian officials have claimed that their banks are holding around $300 million. And, as noted, the interim government is pushing Syria to hand over former regime officials believed to be hiding there. The Syrian government has denied that any former Ba'athists took refuge in the country following the defeat of the Hussein regime, but numerous media reports dating as far back as April 2003 (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 April 2003) indicated that former Ba'athists, including Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, may be directing the insurgency from Syria. There was evidence that foreign fighters began entering Iraq via Syria as early as May 2003.

Syrian officials have maintained that the most recent accusations by U.S. and Iraqi officials are unfounded. Syrian Ambassador to the U.S. Imad Mustafa said that "there is a sinister campaign to create an atmosphere of hostility against Syria," "The Washington Post" reported on 8 December. "Iraqi officials were never welcome" in Syria, he added. Unidentified officials told "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that al-Yawir's allegations "came as an unpleasant surprise," the daily reported on 10 December. Syrian officials cannot deny, however, that despite security measures, militants continue to infiltrate Iraq from Syria. Should evidence come to light that training camps in Syria are churning out fighters for Iraq, the political consequences for Syria would be enormous, and could ultimately include some form of sanctions.

Meanwhile, reports are surfacing that Allawi may be on the verge of striking some kind of deal with former Ba'athists, reported on 11 December. The website claims that Muhammad Yunis al-Ahmad, the former official in charge of the Iraq command for the Salah Al-Din, Al-Ta'mim, and Al-Sulaymaniyah Governorates, has claimed from his base in Al-Hasaka, Syria, that he would halt insurgent attacks within six hours if his party were guaranteed participation in January's elections. The offer was reportedly made during a meeting with negotiators acting on behalf of Allawi at a recent meeting. The website cited its sister paper, "Akhbar al-Khaleej," as reporting that al-Ahmad's offer was made under pressure from Damascus. The website reported that a deal could be struck soon between al-Ahmad and his Ba'athist cohorts, and Allawi's government. Should a successful agreement be reached and the Ba'athist insurgency halted, it would signal a coup for the Allawi government both in terms of dealing with security and getting Sunnis to participate in elections. However, it would likely divide the Iraqi public, many of whom are squarely against allowing Hussein loyalists a foothold in the new Iraqi government. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN LEADER SAYS IRAQI ELECTIONS ON SCHEDULE, SECURITY REMAINS OBSTACLE. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote in a report presented to the Security Council by special representative to Iraq Ashraf Qazi on 13 December that the international community needs "to close ranks in support of Iraq's political and economic reconstruction," the UN News Center reported the same day. Annan wrote that technical preparations for the elections remain on schedule, but he said violence and excessive military force remain a problem on the ground. "The widespread insecurity in Iraq, including intimidation, hostage taking, targeted and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and brutal acts of terror, is a major obstacle," he wrote, adding that any expansion of UN personnel outside the green zone in Baghdad would be extremely perilous.

Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Samir al-Sumaydi'i told the Security Council that the UN needs to take a more active role in Iraq, saying the UN's preferred mode of interaction with the interim government is through conference calls from outside Iraq or videoconferences and letters, AP reported on 13 December. "'As circumstances permit' should not become a mantra repeated [by the UN] to justify insufficient presence on the ground in Iraq," al-Sumaydi'i said. He suggested that the world body dispatch its personnel to more secure areas in northern and southern Iraq to help prepare for elections. U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Danforth also called for "substantial increases" in the number of UN personnel on the ground in Iraq, adding that multinational forces will take steps to protect UN personnel, international media reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)