Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Iraqi CP leader criticizes loopholes in provincial elections law


Iraqi CP leader criticizes loopholes in provincial elections law
Hameed Majid Mousa, the leader of the Iraqi Communist Party, criticized the Law for Provincial Councils Elections which was endorsed by the parliament last Wednesday, because of deleting the article that would have allocated minorities seats in the provincial councils and other issues.

Mousa explained in an interview with radio Sawa that the draft law had stipulated allocating these seats in provinces where there is a big proportion of citizens from minorities, such as Basra, Baghdad and Duhok. He added that this article had been deleted earlier because the UN mission in Baghdad and the Regions and Provinces Commission in parliament did not reach an acceptable and specific mechanism for selecting the representatives, which was unfortunate.

Mousa also expressed his regret that members of parliament did not exert more efforts to ensure the representation of minorities in the Law for Provincial Councils Elections. He said that "more consultations and intensive dialogue should have taken place in order to develop a position that guarantees the rights of ethnic and religious minorities."

Mousa stressed the need to take urgent action to rectify the flaw, pointing out that there is still time to issue a supplement regarding this matter, or a decree from the Higher Independent Electoral Commission or the Parliament.

Regarding the article that deals with the use of religious symbols in election campaigns, Mousa said that there is no problem with publishing the pictures of leading figures who are politically active because they are political symbols. What must not be used are the purely religious symbols and figures that do not participate in any political activity so that they don’t get exploited by one party against another. He applauded including the article that prevents the use of religious symbols and worship places for electioneering purposes.

Source:
"Tareeq Al-Shaab" (People's Path), daily paper of the Iraqi Communist Party. (28-9-2008)

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Iraq sets January deadline for provincial election


Iraq sets January deadline for provincial election

24 September 2008

BAGHDAD (AFP) — The Iraqi parliament finally passed a provincial election law on Wednesday, setting a January 31 deadline for a vote to allow more power to be handed to the country's divided communities.

Members of parliament agreed to a compromise that will exclude not only the disputed northern oil province of Kirkuk but also the whole of the northern Kurdistan region from the new legislation.

Kurdish factions, which lay historic claim to Kirkuk and its oil wealth, had put up the sternest resistance to earlier attempts to clear the way for provincial elections seen by the United States as a cornerstone of national reconciliation efforts after the sectarian bloodshed of recent years.

Parliament had been aiming to pass the legislation in time to hold the polls on October 1 in all 18 of Iraq's provinces but deep rifts between the Kurds and their Arab and Turkmen rivals over arrangements for the process in Kirkuk torpedoed any agreement before the summer recess.

MPs have now agreed to postpone the polls in Kirkuk and three northern provinces that already form part of the autonomous Kurdish region so that elections can be held in the other 14 provinces by January 31.

Elections in Kirkuk will not now be held until after March 2009 and the existing multi-communal council will continue to administer the province.

A committee consisting of two representatives each from its Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen communities and one from the Christian community will work to prepare the groundwork for the organisation of elections in Kirkuk.

The ousted Sunni Arab dominated regime of Saddam Hussein poured Arab settlers, both Sunni and Shiite, into the province in a bid to prevent its oil wealth falling into the hands of Kurdish rebels.

For Kurdish leaders, their insistence on Kirkuk being incorporated into their autonomous region was the main reason for their rejection of a peace deal with the Baghdad government in the early 1970s that saw them continue a rebellion in which hundreds of thousands of their people died.

Kurdish MPs have insisted that a new electoral register be compiled giving the vote only to those with a historic claim to residence in the province before elections be held in Kirkuk.

Under the terms of reference set by the new law, the new seven-member committee will report back to parliament in coordination with the United Nations by March 31 after reviewing the electoral roll with both the existing provincial council and the central government.

Passage of the compromise law by a majority of the 191 MPs present in the 275-seat assembly was immediately hailed by speaker Mahmud al-Mashhadani as an acceptance by the legislature's disparate factions of the wider national interest.

"The law is what the Iraqi people wanted, and not what the politicians wanted," said Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab Islamist who has frequently been outspoken in his criticism of the US-led occupation and the boost in power it has given to Washington's Kurdish and Shiite allies.

"This law shows our determination to reach an agreement, and that we are able to solve problems in a democratic way. Kirkuk was the source of troubles, but now it became a symbol of nationalism and agreement. It has united us."

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Iraqi Communists participate in L-Humanite' Festival


Iraqi Communists and "Tareeq Al-Shaab" newspaper
participate in L'Humanite' Festival

Iraqi Communists continued an internationalist tradition that stretches back to the early 1970s, with active participation of members and supporters in France and European countries in the L'Humanite Festival (12-14 September 2008). The marquee of "Tareeq Al-Shaab" (People's Path), the daily newspaper of the Iraqi CP, in the International Village was packed with visitors browsing through the book stall, listening to lively Iraqi and Kurdish music and folk dance, watching a show of traditional costumes, and sampling delicious Iraqi food.
The centre-piece attraction of the marquee was a big painting by artist Salah Jiyad of the late Kamil Shiaa; the prominent Iraqi intellectual and Communist who was assassinated in Baghdad on 23 August 2008. The marquee was, this year, dedicated to his memory and was named after him.

The Central Committee of Iraqi CP was represented by Mohammed Jassim al-Labban, member of its Political Bureau, who arrived from Baghdad especially for the event. He held a number of meetings with delegations of fraternal and friendly parties.

The party delegation met with Jacques Fath, Director of the Commission for International Relations of the CP of France. Comrade al-Labban gave a brief review of recent political developments in Iraq and answered questions about aspects of the situation. He highlighted the Patriotic Democratic Plan adopted by the party, which expresses Iraqi people's aspirations to regain full national sovereignty, end the occupation and build a state based on the rule of law and equality, and deepen democratic transformations to lead the country out of the current crisis. The French comrades expressed their full solidarity with the struggle of the Iraqi Communist Party in the current complex conditions, under US occupation and with the ongoing struggle about the character and content of the Iraqi state and building its political-social system.

Meetings were also held with the representatives of the Tudeh Party and the Lebanese CP. The latter included its Secretary comrade Khalid Hedadah. Other meetings included delegations of communist parties in Chile, Colombia, Peru and Syria; and social organisations in north Africa.

An Iraqi CP delegation also met with the Venezuelan ambassador to France, Jesus Arnaldo Perez, at the marquee of Venezuela. Political developments and challenges, faced by both Iraqi and Venezuelan peoples, were discussed. The ambassador expressed support and solidarity with the struggle being waged by the Iraqi people and Communist Party under difficult conditions.

Iraq's official representative in UNESCO, Muhi-el-deen al-Khatib, visited the marquee, and delivered a speech expressing his deep sorrow and agony for the big loss of Iraqi culture with the murder of Kamel Shiaa.

Source: "Tareeq Al-Shaab", daily newspaper of the Iraqi Communist Party.


Kurdistan journalists demand being exempted from law for combating terrorism

Kurdistan journalists demand being exempted
from law for combating terrorism

23-9-2008
Arbil / agencies - Journalists in a number of local media in Arbil delivered a memorandum to the Kurdistan Parliament, signed by 7 newspapers, 3 magazines and Radio Nawa, calling for being exempted from a draft law for combating terrorism that will be debated in its next session. The memorandum said that journalists must not be subjected to this law or any other punitive law because journalistic work has nothing to do at all with terrorism. It demanded that the law should stipulate on "preserving the journalist's right to obtain information that concern citizens and public interest. It also said that “the journalist should be given the right to appeal to the public prosecution or the Special Court in order to investigate the relevant body if it refuses to provide the requested information.”
The memorandum further called for the abolition of the article that penalizes a newspaper with suspension if it publishes an illegal article. It argued that such a penalty, no logger how brief it is, will mean permanent stoppage for free media because they rely totally on their daily revenues, and will therefore be unable to pay the wages of their employees.
The Kurdistan Parliament had endorsed a draft law for regulating journalistic work in Kurdistan region last year, but the region's President, Masoud Barzani, revoked that law and sent it back to the parliament to be discussed once again because it faced criticism by journalists, trade unions and journalistic organisations.

Source: Tareeq Al-Shaab, daily newspaper of the Iraqi Communist Party.

Women to get 25% quota in provincial councils

Women to get 25% quota in provincial councils

September 23, 2008

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Women will be given a quota of no less than 25 percent in provincial councils, the chairman of the regions and provinces committee said on Tuesday.

“The issue of the presidential revocation concerning women’s quota in the provincial council elections law has been settled,” Hashim al-Taa’i told Aswat al-Iraq.

Commenting on the ongoing negotiations over paragraph IV of the law, the chairman said that the issue has not been resolved thus far.

On Sunday, the Iraqi Parliament created a formula stipulating that the local government will support a fact-finding committee in Kirkuk city, which was rejected by the Tammuz (July) 22 Grouping that demanded that the central government take over the process.

Highlighting international and regional pressures to pass the provincial council elections law, Taa’i accused unnamed bodies of attempting to hinder its passage.

“The elections law is a peaceful coup that will change the provincial councils, whose members are decision makers…,” he noted.

On July 22, the Iraqi Parliament, with the approval of 127 deputies out of 140 who attended the session, passed the law on provincial council elections, which includes an article postponing the elections in the city of Kirkuk.

Lawmakers from the Kurdistan Alliance (KA) had withdrawn from the session in protest against Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani’s decision to have a secret balloting over article 24 of the law, pertaining to the status of Kirkuk. Balloting over all the other paragraphs of the law, however, was open.

The Presidential Board, with the unanimity of President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies Abdelmahdi and Hashimi, rejected the law in a rapid reaction one day after the Iraqi parliament passed it during a session that raised hue and cry over its constitutionality.

The law drew angry reactions from the Kurds, who considered the way the law was passed as a “twisting of the constitution,” threatening to use the right of veto, granted by the Iraqi constitution for the Presidential Board, headed by President Talabani, a Kurd, to reject the law and return it to the Parliament for debate.

The law on provincial council elections, which is seen as supplementary to the law on regions and non-regional provinces, approved by parliament in February, has sparked heated controversy among political blocs.

The draft law on provincial council elections proposes an open slate system, which gives voters influence on the position of the candidates placed on the party list and allows an individual voting system.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Iraqi Vice President unveils real disagreements with U.S. on security pact

Iraqi Vice President unveils real disagreements with U.S. on security pact

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq

BAGHDAD, Sept. 22 (VOI) – Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on Monday unveiled a real disagreement with Washington regarding some articles of the security agreement.
Speaking to Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq -(VOI), al-Hashemi said “there are real disagreement with the U.S. side on the long-term agreement, noting that Iraq seeks to sign a deal which realizes reconciliation and saves the country’s dignity and to respect the neighboring countries’ sovereignty.
Al-Hashemi is the leader of the Islamic party, one of the main components of the Iraqi Accord Front (IAF) which has 38 seats out of the 275-seat parliament.
Although, he voiced optimism over reaching a final formula of the agreement with the U.S. side.
A declaration of principles was signed between U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in December 2007. The declaration was scheduled to be ratified on July 31, 2008 and to come into force as of January 1, 2009.
The agreement governs the presence of U.S. forces in the country after 2008 and will not come into force without the approval of the Iraqi Parliament, which has 275 members from five blocs, in addition to the Sadrist movement and al-Fadhila party.
The U.S. troops' presence currently relies on a mandate by the United Nations and is annually renewed at the request of the Iraqi government.

Friday, 19 September 2008

General Union of Students condemns forcible eviction of students

General Union of Students condemns forcible eviction
of students
from residence building
in Baghdad University


The General Union of Students in the Iraqi Republic (GUSIR) issued a statement condemning an operation carried out on Thursday morning, 18 Sept. 2008, on the campus of Baghdad University in Jaderiyah, "by units of the Iraqi army accompanied by International Coalition forces", to evacuate a building used for the residence of students from the provinces. The building, in the Second Engineering College (Al-Khawarezmi College), was stormed, resulting in clashes between the army units and students, during which firearms were used to terrorize the students.

GUSIR's statement denounced this move by the college administration, especially that students were sitting their exams. It called for an immediate halt to all such measures, stressing the need for official bodies to respect the inviolability of the university campus, and to ban the use of violence, arms, force and attempts to terrorize students. "Dialogue and negotiations, based on the internal rules regulating university life, must be employed in order to achieve fair, logical and practical solutions."

The students organisation also called for conducting a just investigation "to identify those who were responsible for what happened in Al-Khawarezmi College," and demanded assurances to prevent the recurrence of such violations, as well as seeking proper solutions to the problems that university students in residential buildings have endured.

Source: statement issued by GUSIR spokesperson, 18 September 2008.

U.S. agreement with Iraq over troops is at risk - Paper



U.S. agreement with Iraq over troops is at risk - Paper

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq

BAGHDAD, Sept.19 (VOI) - An agreement to extend the American military mandate in Iraq beyond this year — near completion only a month ago — has stalled over objections by Iraqi leaders and could be in danger of falling apart, A U.S paper said.
The daily New York Times pointed out “the disagreements threaten a capstone of President Bush’s Iraq policy during his remaining months in office”, adding “Bush has already offered significant concessions to the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in the negotiations, including his willingness to accept a specific date for withdrawing American forces: the end of 2011”.
“The major remaining point of contention involves immunity, with the United States maintaining that American troops and military contractors should have the same protections they have in other countries where they are based and Iraq insisting that they be subject to the country’s criminal justice system for any crime committed outside of a military operation,”the daily stressed.
The Times referred to a television interview this week,citing Maliki saying “the example of an Iraqi killed by an American soldier in a market, that a case like that should fall to Iraqi courts immediately.”, noting “they reject”.
However, the paper highlighted The White House has expressed confidence that an agreement can be reached before the end of December, when the United Nations mandate authorizing American forces in Iraq expires.
“The administration plans to send its chief negotiators back to Baghdad in the coming days to try to complete an agreement that officials had originally planned to finish in July”, it explained.
The Times quoted Defense Secretary Robert M Gates, traveling in London, saying “the administration was preparing to offer compromise proposals in an effort to overcome Iraq’s objections, which he acknowledged focused on immunity and the authority to arrest and detain Iraqis”.
“The American negotiators will be carrying with them some ideas that perhaps meet both the Iraqi and our concerns on some of the remaining issues,”he added.
In agreeing to specific dates as a goal for troop withdrawals, the Times emphasized “Mr. Bush has had to soften his earlier warnings that deadlines were counterproductive also agreed to withdraw American troops from Iraqi cities by next July and base them in comparatively remote areas, except during operations.”
“Mr. Maliki’s objections reflected a combination of factors. He cited Iraqi nationalism, Mr. Maliki’s own domestic political necessities and a desire to await the outcome of the American presidential election, on the assumption that the next president could offer different terms,”the paper quoted Michael E. O’Hanlon, an analyst with the Brooking Institute in Washington, as saying.
“He knows there has to be a deal in the end — even if it’s with an Obama administration,” Mr. O’Hanlon added, referring to U.S Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for president. “But by trying to get what he wants — or being seen trying to get what he wants — he shores up his position at home.”
“Mr. Maliki also, for the first time, raised the possibility of seeking an extension to the United Nations mandate at the Security Council, saying that had become complicated because of American and Russian tensions over the conflict in Georgia” The Times pointed out..
“Even if we ask for an extension, then we will ask for it according to our terms and we will attach conditions and the U.S. side will refuse,”it added.
“U.S. forces would be without legal cover and will have no choice but to pull out from Iraq or stay and be in contravention of international law,” The paper cited al-Maliki saying in an interview on Wednesday with the directors of Iraqi satellite television channels

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Kurdish MPs give conditional approval to new provincial polls law


Kurdish MPs give conditional approval
to new provincial polls law - speaker

Voices of Iraq
BAGHDAD, Sept. 17 (VOI) - Iraq's parliament speaker on Wednesday said Kurdish lawmakers gave a hard approval to a proposal resolving the controversial provincial elections law in Kirkuk.

Deputies passed the provincial election law on July 22, but Kurdish MPs boycotted the session partly because the bill delayed voting in Kirkuk.The disagreement centers on article 24 of original draft legislation that would have divided power amongst the province's Arab, Kurds, and Turkmen communities, but is opposed by the Kurds on the basis of their superior numbers and historical claims to the city.

"The July 22 Group of MPs presented a proposal emanating from UN envoy paper and law article 24, which deputies from Kurdistan Coalition(KC) and Kurdistan's Islamic Union approved, yet they held the UN proposal conditional to making no further amendements", a parliament statement received by Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI) cited speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani as saying.

Earlier on Tuesday, al-Mashhadani said blocs reached a compromise on passing the provincial elections law, expecting its parliament's endorsement on Wednesday."

The KC has reservations over coalescing the UN envoy paper and law article 24, but was approved to reach a compromise, however any further amendments would result in new ones by the KC," the announcement quoted Fuad Massoum, the chief of the Kurdish bloc, as saying.

The announcement added parliament panel set up to resolve the controversy of provincial polls law would keep on meetings until reaching a compromise.

Iraq's political blocs have met in recent days to try to reach a compromise on the law, but they failed to reach any breakthroughs. The parliament decided to establish a special panel to overcome the controversial issue.

The law had been held up by a dispute over what to do about voting in multi-ethnic Kirkuk, where a dispute is simmering between Kurds who say the city should belong to the largely autonomous Kurdistan region and Arabs who want it to stay under central government authority. Arabs and Turkmen believe Kurds have stacked the city with Kurds since the downfall of Saddam in 2003 to try to tip the demographic balance in their favor in any vote.

Arabs encouraged to move there under Saddam Hussein's rule fear the vote will consolidate Kurdish power and they sought to postpone it, a proposal Kurdish politicians have rejected.

Parliament decided to postpone the vote and add another article that the Kurds found unacceptable: that each ethnic or sectarian group gets a set allocation of seats and voting is between individual candidates from those groups. Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen get 10 seats each. Minority Christians get two.

Washington has been urging a speedy provincial election, which it sees as a pillar of national reconciliation, but the poll is also proving a potential flashpoint for tensions.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Demonstration of workers and employees of oil products distribution in Baghdad

Demonstration of workers and employees
of oil products distribution in Baghdad

Hundreds of workers and employees of the Oil Products Distribution Department in Baghdad demonstrated in Furdaus Square in central Baghdad on 10 September 2008. A memorandum addressed to the Ministry of Oil listed their legitimate demands and explained the situation in the distribution stations as a result of unfair decisions to suspend workers and stop their salaries. The following were some of their demands:

1 - To pay the salaries of full-time clerks and workers in the oil units, including stations and gas distribution areas.
2 - To abolish the fines, in line with those abolished by the Minister of Oil in 2006.
3 - To end the penalty of banning work in the oil units, that is concurrent with administrative penalties, because it masks unemployment and immobilizes the potential of employees.
4 - To determine the specific nature of irregularities for which station employees are held responsible, because they get penalised for things that have nothing to do with their jobs.
5 - Inspection and regulatory commissions should specify the irregularity in the employment record of the oil unit and get it signed by the unit's clerk.
6 - To provide maintenance for the stations and sustain the oil units in a proper manner.
7 - To ensure that the clerks of stations and full-time workers are included in additional work and holidays because their work hours exceed 12 hours a day.
8 - To provide the stations with full-time workers in line with the number of pumps and work hours, and to register the temporary workers as permanent staff.
9 - To tackle the lack of understanding and cooperation between the Baghdad Distribution Department and the Technical Affairs Commission, and to identify the faults in order to solve the technical problems.
10 - To restore the use of the Master Meter which is connected to the tanker when the product is emptied, because it was used for two weeks and then cancelled.
11 - To ensure the presence of a representative of the workers and employees in all the investigative and technical committees that are related to work, in order to resolve all the problems and obstacles that impede the operation of the oil stations.

While calling upon the relevant bodies in the Ministry of Oil to respond to these demands, the memorandum stressed that the workers and employees of the Baghdad Oil Products Distribution Department are prepared to cooperate and abide by the regulations stipulated by the Ministry in order to contribute to alleviating the fuel crisis experienced by the country and to be the main component of Oil Products Distribution Company.

Source: "Tareeq Al-Shaab", daily paper of the Iraqi Communist Party, 14 September 2008.

Parliament to vote on elections law on Wednesday - speaker

Parliament to vote on elections law on Wednesday - speaker

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq
Tuesday , 16 /09 /2008

BAGHDAD, Sept. 16 (VOI) – Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said on Tuesday that the Parliament could vote on the controversial provincial council elections law on Wednesday, according to a media source.

“Al-Mashhadani unveiled during the session held today an agreement among parliamentary blocs to approve the law, noting that the law is most likely to be voted tomorrow,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI) on condition of anonymity.
On July 22, the Iraqi Parliament, with the approval of 127 deputies out of 140 who attended the session, passed the law on provincial council elections, which includes an article postponing the elections in the city of Kirkuk.
Lawmakers from the Kurdistan Coalition (KC) had withdrawn from the session in protest against Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's decision to have a secret balloting over article 24 of the law, pertaining to the status of Kirkuk. Balloting over all the other paragraphs of the law, however, was open.
The Presidential Board, with the unanimity of President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies Adel Abdelmahdi and Tareq al-Hashimi, rejected the law in a rapid reaction one day after the Iraqi Parliament passed it during a session that raised hue and cry over its constitutionality.
The law drew angry reactions from the Kurds, who considered the way the law was passed as a "twisting of the constitution," threatening to use the right of veto, granted by the Iraqi constitution for the Presidential Board, headed by President Talabani, a Kurd, to reject the law and return it to the Parliament for debate.
The law on provincial council elections, which is seen as supplementary to the law on regions and non-regional provinces, which was approved by the Parliament in February, has sparked heated controversy among political blocs.
The law specifies the system of government in Iraq, and if applied, a federal system may be established in the country with three separate regions, a call echoed by some Iraqi political parties.
The draft law on provincial council elections proposes an open slate system, which gives voters influence on the position of the candidates placed on the party list and allows an individual voting system.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Iraq: what's changed?


Iraq: what's changed?


The security situation has improved, but as the smoke of conflict clears, the full human cost of the Iraq occupation comes into view

Jonathan Steele

The Guardian - September 10 2008

Back in Baghdad for the first time this year, I was consumed by the issue of change. What's different, I would ask almost every Iraqi I met. 'What about you, what do you see that's new?', they would query in their turn. So here, in a few paragraphs, is a summary of my answers. Some things have changed for the better, others for the worse. Let's start with the positive.
Security is massively improved. Fears of random abduction and murder are reduced. The frequency of car bombs is down. Whereas Iraqis rarely left their homes, except for work and some hurried shopping, people dare to go out in the evening. Some 50,000 attended the finals of the national football championship in Baghdad the other night, a crowd which would have been anxious of being the target of a suicide attack this time last year.
Was it the 'surge' of 30,000 extra troops which did it? That played a role, but the more important and larger 'surge' was the Iraqi one. Iraqi police and army units are everywhere in Baghdad, while US troops are rarely to be seen. Uniformed Iraqis stand guard or sit in vehicles at virtually every cross-roads and roundabout in Baghdad. They man checkpoints every few hundred yards, observing traffic, occasionally pulling a driver over, and keeping an eye on each other. A year ago, the police were suspects themselves, often involved in sectarian brutality. Now, the police have been cleaned up, not yet fully, but enough to make a difference, especially with the army standing close by to watch them.
The emergence among the Sunnis of al-Sahwa, the so-called Awakening movement, has also helped to enhance security. This is the second positive change. Several areas of Baghdad are patrolled by these new militias who used to fight the Americans and then switched to fighting al-Qaida. Now they run their areas on their own, telling the Iraqi police as well as the Americans that they are not wanted. The Americans call them 'sons of Iraq' or 'concerned local citizens' and pay them, but whatever their name, they perform a vital security function.
A major result – my third good change – is that hundreds of displaced Sunni and Shia families are coming home. It is well-known that the longer refugees stay away, the harder it is for them ever to go back. Their property is looted or taken over. They put down roots elsewhere. A year ago it seemed that the capital city's mixed neighbourhoods were doomed. Over half a million Baghdadis had fled to different parts of the city where they felt safer. Baghdad seemed fated to become a mosaic of ethnically cleansed monocultural enclaves.
That is no longer true. Some of the displacement is turning out to be reversible, and the Iraqi government is making a serious effort to speed it up. It says squatting in someone else's home will be punishable by three years in jail and, starting this month, will use the Iraqi army to force squatters out.
The fourth change is a gradual shift away from the Islamist politics of the last few years to something more inclusive, tolerant, and democratic. It is a hard thing to put your finger on, but there's a more secular mood in the air. For two years Baghdad was in the grip of an intra-Arab Sunni-versus-Shia civil war. That phase is over. People looked into the abyss, and pulled themselves back.
I heard the most optimistic take on this new sense of moderation from Raid Jahid Fahmi, the minister of science and technology, an LSE-trained leader of the Iraqi Communist party. 'We are living in brutal, violent times, but Iraqi society is finding a new equilibrium,' he told me. With his Iraqi government colleagues in mind, he added:

Look at many of these Islamic leaders. Look at their discourse, their practice, and the projects they adopt. It's different from what they believed in the past. The mentality of sectarianism is on the decline. I don't know the degree of their sincerity, but they now accept having a law-based state and a multicultural civil society. It's hard to find a family in Baghdad which didn't lose at least one member, but the forces which were responsible for this have suffered a great deal of discredit. People have learnt from their experiences.

Alas, not all the changes in Baghdad are for the better. On the negative side I would put the extraordinary increase in hatred and suspicion of Iran among Baghdad's Sunni Arabs. Sunnis have never liked the mullahs in Tehran. But now, thanks to the mass killings of Sunnis by Shias in the last two years as well as the constant drum-beat of anti-Iranian propaganda from the Americans, it is hard to find a Sunni leader who does not see Iran as the main source of Iraq's troubles. In Adhamiya, a largely Sunni suburb, the Awakening council leader Abu Abed Ali Bahjat insisted that al-Qaida in Iraq was run by Iran. Osama bin Laden's son lived in Iran, he assured me, where he was in charge of forging links with Lebanon's Hizbullah.
Iraq's vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's leading Sunni politician, was less paranoid but equally blunt. 'Unfortunately, Iran is a troublemaker rather than being a responsible and honest neighbour. There is a major threat from Iran,' he told me.
Bad, too, is the government's new move to disarm al-Sahwa. A year ago, the country's Shia leaders were cautiously welcoming the Awakening movement as a vital weapon against al-Qaida. Now, they see its newfound strength as a danger, and are trying to force it to disband, even though it has improved Baghdad's security.
The third negative change is the new risk of armed clashes between Arabs and Kurds. Low-level tension between the two communities over the oil-rich Kirkuk region and other parts of northern Iraq has been a feature of the Iraqi scene for years. But it has become sharper in the last few months, and there is a real danger that major violence could erupt. It would only take one spark to ignite the Kirkuk oil drum and then we could see Arab-versus-Kurdish killing in every area where both people are neighbours today. The danger should not be exaggerated, but it is certainly more real than a year ago.
Finally, one has to mention the enormous legacy of human misery which the invasion and five years of occupation unleashed. Is it worse than a year ago? Has anything changed here? Probably not, but as the prospect of a US troop reduction gains strength whoever wins the White House in November, the full toll of disaster comes more clearly into focus.
The impact of the recent short-term improvements makes it easier to comprehend the medium- and long-term tasks ahead. A country with more than a million widows, where barely half the children go to school (because of displacement, continuing security fears, and teacher shortages), with drastic scarcities of electric power and water, and an eighth of its people living abroad, many of them those with the best education and the most needed skills, is not going to get back on its feet any time soon.

Iraq pullout ploy

Iraq pullout ploy
Bush plan geared to helping GOP in November

People's Weekly World Newspaper, 09/12/08

Withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq is a political struggle both here and in Iraq.

President Bush has announced plans to pull some 8,000 troops out of Iraq by early 2009. This leaves 138,000 U.S. troops there, higher than pre-surge levels.

Despite the Bush administration’s vehement opposition to setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops, the latest draft of a U.S.-Iraqi agreement says all U.S. combat troops must be out of Iraq’s cities and villages by June 30 next year, and withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq must be completed no later than the end of 2011, according to the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada.

In Oman’s al-Watan newspaper, a commentary headlined “Why the talk of troop reduction in Iraq?” suggests Bush is trying to drum up support for GOP presidential candidate John McCain. The author notes that while Bush is eager to finalize a U.S.-Iraqi agreement as soon as possible, Maliki’s government may be interested in lengthening the negotiations. Iraqis are undoubtedly aware that if Democrat Barack Obama wins in November it could open up better possibilities for both stabilizing Iraq and ending the occupation. (Of course some Iraqis may have bet on the Bush/McCain horse.)

The commentator is not alone in his speculation on Bush administration motives. But a political debate is also unfolding in Iraq.

Iraqi Communist Party spokesperson Salam Ali said the latest draft agreement clearly contains “wording open to interpretation” and loopholes, and will need “close examination.”

The draft makes no reference to the role of military forces that are not classified as “combat” troops, and appears to contain a number of contradictory formulations regarding who has the authority to shorten or extend these deadlines, or make other changes.

Iraq’s Political Council for National Security, composed of all major political blocs, will review any final draft, Ali said in a phone interview last week.

He disputed speculation by some U.S. commentators that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will try to get an agreement signed before the end of this year without consent of Iraq’s Parliament.

“There is no way that Maliki or anyone else can push this through without, at least, the agreement of Parliament,” Ali said.

Underscoring that sentiment, a Sept. 7 conference of the Southern Arab Tribal Council, comprising 130 tribal sheiks and 700 prominent figures from three southern Iraq provinces including oil-rich Basra, said any U.S.-Iraq agreement must be closely scrutinized by Iraq’s Parliament before it is signed, the Voices of Iraq news service reported.

U.S.-Iraqi talks on a “status of forces” agreement governing the U.S. military role in Iraq had stalled over Iraq’s insistence on a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal, and on its resistance to Bush administration demands for immunity for U.S. personnel accused of crimes in Iraq.

The Bush administration first pressed for open-ended U.S. military presence, then, faced with strong counter-pressure from Iraq, started talking of “time horizons” and “aspirational goals.”

The Iraqis first demanded withdrawal by the end of 2010. While the 2011 end date in the latest draft for pulling out the bulk of U.S. troops is a long way away for Americans who overwhelmingly want troops brought home promptly, it is evidently something of a tactical retreat for the Bush administration.

From the Iraqi side, the draft reflects the overwhelming desire to be rid of foreign occupation and at the same time fears of being left in a security vacuum, vulnerable to terrorist and sectarian violence, if Iraq’s security forces are not ready yet.

Reflecting this outlook, Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary-general, said last week, “The question is, is Iraq today ready with a national army, a national police force, a national judiciary, a national educational system?”

“If they are ready, the troops have to leave,” he told The Associated Press. But the U.S. already committed the mistake of invading Iraq, he said, and “it would be another mistake to create chaos in the country and then leave it in chaos.”

Although war-related violence in Iraq has decreased, it is still high — in August at least 360 civilians were killed in Baghdad alone and more than 470 wounded, AP reported. Crises continue in health care, electricity and water services and other basics of day-to-day security.

Iraq’s Parliament is unlikely to act quickly on the U.S. agreement. It just returned from recess and has other pressing business, including attempting to resolve differences over procedures for provincial elections that were originally supposed to take place in early October. Those elections are considered as significant for Iraqi politics as the 2006 mid-term congressional elections were for U.S. politics.

With Iraqi public opinion turning away from sectarian religious parties, many political figures are adopting a more nationalist tone with their eyes on the provincial elections, Ali said. This includes Maliki, who appears to be trying to build on his recent successes in combating sectarian militias by taking a stronger nationalist stance, including in his dealings with the United States.

In any case, action by Iraq’s Parliament could come after the Nov. 4 U.S. presidential elections, when an Obama victory could introduce a new dynamic. In addition, the U.S. Congress and public will want to weigh in.

Author: Susan Web

Iraq Rejects No-Bid Contracts


Iraq Rejects No-Bid Contracts
Talks Over Short-Term Oil Deals Lasted Too Long, Officials Say

By Ernesto LondoƱo

Washington Post Foreign Service

Friday, September 12, 2008

BAGHDAD, Sept. 11 -- The Iraqi government has decided to scrap plans to award no-bid short-term advisory and technical support contracts to a handful of Western oil companies, Iraqi officials said this week.

The companies -- including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total and British Petroleum -- are expected to submit bids in coming weeks for deals that the Iraqi government hopes will boost exploration and output in its oil fields, which have been hampered by years of war. Industry analysts said the short-term contracts could have helped companies win more lucrative exploration and development deals.

The Iraqi government informed the companies about its decision this month, said Assem Jihad, a spokesman for Iraq's Oil Ministry.

He said the ministry decided to end the talks because they had dragged on for too long. But he said Iraq looks forward to working with those companies in the future.

"We don't have a negative attitude toward any company," he said. "The ministry decided that due to the delay, it was better to cancel this idea."

The oil companies were not surprised by the Iraqi decision, given the political sensitivities raised by the issue, according to an executive at one of the five companies. Speaking on the condition that he not be identified further, the executive said the deals had become less attractive because Iraqi officials had shortened the proposed length of the contracts from two years to one in response to criticism.

China's national oil company last month became the first company to sign a major oil deal with Iraq since the war began in 2003. The 20-year deal with China's National Petroleum Corp., which revives a similar contract negotiated while Saddam Hussein was in power, is expected to increase output in one of Iraq's largest oil fields.

This week, Iraqi officials announced that they intend to sign a contract with Shell to capture and make use of natural gas that is now burned off during oil production in southern Iraq. The deal, which could be worth as much as $4 billion, has been approved by Iraq's parliament and could be signed as early as next week, Jihad said.

According to the proposed agreement, Iraq would keep 51 percent of the proceeds, and Shell would keep the rest.

Iraq is enormously attractive to oil companies, as the price of the resource has soared and oil-rich countries such as Venezuela and Russia have increasingly nationalized their oil industries. But violence and political turmoil -- Iraqi lawmakers have yet to agree on a hydrocarbon law-- have given oil executives pause.

Staff writer Steven Mufson in Washington and special correspondents K.I. Ibrahim and Zaid Sabah in Baghdad contributed to this report

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

UN agencies support Iraq’s efforts to curb outbreak of cholera


UN agencies support Iraq’s efforts
to curb outbreak of cholera

10 September 2008 – United Nations agencies are helping Iraq to contain the recent deadly outbreak of cholera, with more than two dozen confirmed cases and nearly 200 others under investigation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing technical support to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, and, along with other UN entities, has been aiding cholera-affected governorates since the disease resurfaced three weeks ago.
WHO has taken on a coordination role in efforts to tackle cholera and is working to fortify Iraq’s disease surveillance system in identifying new cases. It is also supplying emergency supplies to laboratories to enhance their testing capability.
The agency said that 10 deaths have been reported this year, and 174 suspected cases are being investigated to determine whether patients have cholera.
Last year witnessed nearly 5,000 cholera cases and 24 deaths, mostly in the north. “This year’s outbreak is very different,” said Naeema Al-Gasseer, WHO Representative to Iraq. “The majority of cases are now in rural areas where most people lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.”

For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is sending water tankers, oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets, and the agency said it is also on standby to provide any additional support needed.
WHO cautioned that the overall quality of water and sanitation in Iraq is very poor, which could facilitate the spread of cholera.
The Government’s prompt response – including ensuring medical supplies and chlorine are available and sending clean drinking water – has curbed the disease’s spread.
Both WHO and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) recommended that in the long run, the country upgrade its water and sanitation networks and improve its power supplies to treatment plants to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Iraq confirms service agreements scrapped

LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Technical service agreements under negotiation with international oil companies have been cancelled, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani confirmed on Tuesday.
Shaharistani had previously said the probability the contracts would go ahead had decreased after delays in signing.
"The remaining time was too short because the full deal development contracts should come into effect by mid next year," the minister told reporters.
"The remaining nine months was too short for technical support contracts to be effective."
Iraq had wanted six contracts to boost oil output by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) each to be signed in June and implemented within a year.
The firms that have been negotiating technical service agreements are Royal Dutch Shell , Shell in partnership with BHP Billiton, Exxon Mobil , Chevron with Total
A smaller consortium of Anadarko , Vitol and Dome had negotiated for another deal but Anadarko walked away last month.
Baghdad did not want to extend the end-date for the contracts as it planned to sign long-term deals for the same fields by mid-2009.
A draft oil law intended to set the framework for foreign investment has been long-delayed and Shahristani has said he did not expect it to be approved in parliament in the near future.
But, regardless of the law, he said he planned to go through with a first bidding round and would also announce a second round before the end of the year.
Shahristani was speaking on arrival in Vienna ahead of an OPEC meeting, which was widely expected to keep existing output targets in place, but some members have urged tighter compliance.
"OPEC should stick to its quota," Shahristani told reporters. "The market is well-supplied, if it is not oversupplied."
He said Iraq, the only OPEC member that does not have an agreed production ceiling, had been pumping around 2.5 million barrels per day in early September and aimed for 2.7 million bpd by the end of the year.

Parliament’s session adjourned without approving elections law

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq
Tuesday , 09 /09 /2008

BAGHDAD, Sept. 9 (VOI) – MP from the Kurdistan Islamic Union said on Tuesday that the Parliament’s session was adjourned without approving the provincial council elections law, while Parliament’s speaker decided to hold a meeting for the heads of the parliamentary bloc for this purpose on Wednesday.
“The session was adjourned without approving the provincial council elections law and a meeting will be held tomorrow within this context among all heads of the parliamentary blocs at 11:00 a.m.,” Sami al-Atroushi told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).
The Iraqi government relies on the provincial council elections, which were scheduled to be held on October 1, 2008, to curb violence in the war-scarred country by including a number of armed groups in the Iraqi political process.
On July 22, the Iraqi Parliament, with the approval of 127 deputies out of 140 who attended the session, passed the law on provincial council elections, which includes an article postponing the elections in the city of Kirkuk.
Lawmakers from the Kurdistan Coalition (KC) had withdrawn from the session in protest against Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's decision to have a secret balloting over article 24 of the law, pertaining to the status of Kirkuk. Balloting over all the other paragraphs of the law, however, was open.
The Presidential Board, with the unanimity of President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies Adel Abdelmahdi and Tareq al-Hashimi, rejected the law in a rapid reaction one day after the Iraqi Parliament passed it during a session that raised hue and cry over its constitutionality.
The law drew angry reactions from the Kurds, who considered the way the law was passed as a "twisting of the constitution," threatening to use the right of veto, granted by the Iraqi constitution for the Presidential Board, headed by President Talabani, a Kurd, to reject the law and return it to the Parliament for debate.
The law on provincial council elections, which is seen as supplementary to the law on regions and non-regional provinces, which was approved by the Parliament in February, has sparked heated controversy among political blocs.
The law specifies the system of government in Iraq, and if applied, a federal system may be established in the country with three separate regions, a call echoed by some Iraqi political parties.
The draft law on provincial council elections proposes an open slate system, which gives voters influence on the position of the candidates placed on the party list and allows an individual voting system.

Iraqi Communist Party delegation meets with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki


Iraqi Communist Party delegation meets
with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki



Baghdad - 9 Sept. 2008

A delegation from the Iraqi Communist Party headed by Hamid Majeed Mousa, the secretary of the party's Central Committee, met with the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday, Monday, 8 September 2008, at his head office in Baghdad. The delegation of the party included Central Committee members Mufid al-Jazairy, Raed Fahmi, Izzat Abu al-Timman and Jassim al-Hilfi.
The two sides considered the political developments in the country, and ways to develop the path of the political process. Discussions covered a number of issues, including the security agreement between Baghdad and Washington, with emphasis on standards of transparency, adherence to national principles, and preserving and safeguarding Iraq's independence and sovereignty. The relationship between the federal government and the Kurdistan region was also discussed, stressing the need for resolving contentious issues through dialogue as principal means for their resolution. In this context, the two sides expressed their commitment to continue the efforts to serve the interests of the Iraqi people and their progress.
The meeting also dealt with the successes in security, the achievements of the Iraqi armed forces as indicated by their improved performance in the field, as well as the importance of addressing the shortcomings associated with security operations.
The two sides also stressed the need to achieve a qualitative leap in services, with regard to improving the energy, water, health, education and environment sectors. They also reaffirmed the need for the security effort on the ground to be combined with a package of measures designed to provide better services to the citizens.

Source: "Tareek Al-Shaab", daily paper of the Iraqi Communist Party
9 / 9 / 2008

Monday, 8 September 2008

Memorial meeting in Holland
for Iraq's martyr Kamil Shiaa















A memorial meeting for the prominent Iraqi intellectual and communist, Kamel Shiaa, was held on Friday 5th September in the city of Den Haag (The Hague). The event, organised by the Iraqi Communist Party organisation in Holland, was attended by numerous intellectuals; writers and artists, as well as comrades and friends of Kamil who had been deeply shocked by his cowardly assassination in Baghdad on 23 August 2008. Among the participants was the well-known Egyptian thinker Dr. Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid.

The program of the event included numerous speeches, delivered by representatives of political, democratic, cultural and community organisations, strongly condemning the crime and demanding urgent action by the Iraqi authorities to pursue and punish the perpetrators. The long list of organisations included branches of Iraqi Women's League and Iraqi Democratic Youth Federation.


Among speakers were artists and writers, including the literary critic Yassin al-Nasier who had met Kamel in Baghdad in the summer. He said that the killers "wanted to strike the heart, so they struck the Communist party.. They wanted to strike the culture, so they killed an intellectual renowned for his tolerance." Poems were recited, and a piece of music composed by Qassim al-Sa'idi was played in memory of Kamil. The program also included a musical performance by Wisam Ayoub on the traditional instrument santur, as well as an exhibition of four paintings by artist Qassim al-Sa'di, about Baghdad and a life that is full of pain and hope, dedicated to Kamil who loved art so much.



Iraqi CP: Dialogue is the only solution to the issue of Kirkuk



Iraqi CP: Dialogue is the only solution to the issue of Kirkuk

"Tareeq Al-Shaab" - daily paper of the Iraqi Communist Party

Baghdad - 8 September 2008

Raid Fahmi, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party, delivered a lecture on Article 140 of the Constitution and the issue of Kirkuk, at the party headquarters in Andalus Square. He pointed to "the difficulties and constraints that accompanied the work of the Commission of Article 140, thus obstructing the implementation of this Article concerning the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk. "

Fahmi explained that Article 58 of the Transitional State Administration Law (2004) had called for the return of the people who had been brought in and settled in Kirkuk under Saddam's rule, to their original areas after compensating them. It also called for facilitating the return of deportees to their areas and homes, from which they had been forcibly evicted by the former regime and its chauvinist policy."

He said that "the Kirkuk issue is a very sensitive issue, and therefore cannot be easily dealt with unless there is a patriotic and purely humanitarian vision. Because of the status of the Iraqi Communist Party, its honourable patriotic history, its programme which calls for the unity of Iraq, and upholding the language of dialogue, it was trusted and chosen by all the relevant groups to resolve the issue in a patriotic spirit." Forms had been distributed to families wishing to return from Kirkuk to their original areas, with more than 25,000 forms handed out, and 12,000 families were given compensation after proper measures to transfer their records, food ration coupons and related matters. This process was carried out in a transparent manner and without any pressures. More than 80,000 forms were distributed to deportees, with more than 40,000 being completed by families who have returned to their homes. These figures will increase in the coming days."

Fahmi stressed the "importance of dialogue to resolve the issue of Kirkuk, away from political statements and bickering that are useless and can only serve to divide national ranks." He explained the Communist Party's point of view about resolving the Kirkuk issue in a fair, sound and transparent manner, and restoring usurped rights without compromising the dignity of any citizen."

He also referred to other disputed areas, such as Talkeaf, Sinjar and Khanaqin, noting that "the Commission of Article 140 has received many requests regarding similar issues in other parts of Iraq. This demonstrates the success of the Commission and the transparency of its work, as it has not received any complaint from any of the families that had been brought in and settled or those that had been deported. In addition, no complaint has been filed against the Commision by any party, and this underlines its success in discharging its duty and the job assigned to it."





Sunday, 7 September 2008

News Summary

News Summary

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq

Sunday , 07 /09 /2008




BAGHDAD, Sept. 7 (VOI) – Following is a summary of news reports posted until 04:00 p.m. Baghdad local time Sunday:

*Politics:

BAGHDAD, A Baghdad-based newspaper on Sunday criticized politicians whom it described as anti-Kurds, while another called on Iraqi intellectuals abroad to return home.

BASRA, The Southern Arab Tribal Council, in a conference held on Sunday in Basra province, called for sacking the ministers of trade and electricity for their "slackness to do their jobs" in a way corresponding with the citizens' needs.

BAGHDAD, A spokesman for a Sunni bloc underlined the need for a schedule for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, noting that foreign troops' presence in Iraq is rejected.

AMMAN, Arab press gave prominence in their Sunday issues to a report published by the Washington Post two days ago about spying operations allegedly conducted by the White House on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and several high-ranking Iraqi officials.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

UN official, Shiite cleric discuss UN's role in elections


UN official, Shiite cleric discuss UN's role in elections

Saturday , 06 /09 /2008

Najaf - Voices of Iraq

NAJAF, Sept. 6 (VOI) – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Iraq Staffan de Mistura on Saturday discussed with top Shiite Cleric Ali al-Sistani in his Najaf residence UN efforts to solve the dispute over the provincial council elections law.

"The world organization is fully prepared to help the Iraqi people express their opinion," the U.N. official said during a press conference held in front of Sistani's house on Saturday.
"This is my second visit to his Eminence Sistani and it was my honor to listen to his advice and opinions. We both examined the United Nation's role in helping the Iraqi people in the fields of elections, economic development, and to find solutions to disputed issues," de Mistura said.
The official stressed the need for holding provincial council elections on time.
"In my opinion, there is no reason for not holding elections on time," he said.
Iraqis "suffered a lot from dictatorship" and are entitled to choose their representatives through elections, he added.
The Iraqi government relies on provincial council elections, which are supposed to be held on October 1, 2008, to curb violence in the war-scarred country by including a number of armed groups in the Iraqi political process.
On July 22, the Iraqi Parliament, with the approval of 127 deputies out of 140 who attended the session, passed the law on provincial council elections, which includes an article postponing the elections in the city of Kirkuk.
Lawmakers from the Kurdistan Coalition had withdrawn from the session in protest against Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's decision to have a secret balloting over article 24 of the law, pertaining to the status of Kirkuk. Balloting over all the other paragraphs of the law, however, was open.
The Presidential Board, with the unanimity of President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies Adel Abdelmahdi and Tareq al-Hashimi, rejected the law in a rapid reaction one day after the Iraqi Parliament passed it during a session that raised hue and cry over its constitutionality.
The law drew angry reactions from the Kurds, who considered the way the law was passed as a "twisting of the constitution," threatening to use the right of veto, granted by the Iraqi constitution for the Presidential Board, headed by President Talabani, a Kurd, to reject the law and return it to the Parliament for debate.
Najaf, about 160 km south of Baghdad, has an estimated population of 900,600 in 2008, though this has increased significantly since 2003 due to immigration from abroad. The city is one of the holiest cities of Shiite Islam and the center of Shiite political power in Iraq.
Najaf is renowned as the site of the tomb of Ali Ibn Abi Taleb (also known as "Imam Ali"), whom Shiites consider to be the righteous caliph and first imam.
The city is now a great center of pilgrimage from throughout the Shiite Islamic world. It is estimated that only Mecca and Medina receive more Muslim pilgrims.
The Imam Ali Mosque is housed in a grand structure with a gilded dome and many precious objects in its walls.


Friday, 5 September 2008

News Summary - Friday , 05 /09 /2008


News Summary

Voices of Iraq


Friday , 05 /09 /2008 Time 11:18:14

BAGHDAD, Sept. 5 (VOI) – Following is a summary of news reports posted until 10:00 p.m. Baghdad local time Friday:

* Politics:

BAGHDAD, Iraq’s deputy Prime Minister on Friday said security gains are still “fragile”, noting meeting between the central government and Kurdistan’s regional authorities are ongoing to reach solutions to controversial issues.

BAGHDAD, Iraq’s Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said his country is not in need of an agreement that does not guarantee its sovereignty, noting U.S-Iraq negotiations on security deal have been stopped.

BAGHDAD, Unknown gunmen on Friday assassinated a defence ministry advisor in Baghdad, a police source said.

KARBALAA, The representative of top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani called on Iraqi people to defend themselves against the lack of services, deeming pledges taken by some Iraqi officials to improve them as “false”.

ARBIL, Head of Kurdistan region's presidency office unveiled that the Khanaqin agreement that has been signed by the Iraqi federal government and Kurdistan's regional cabinet has been in place since Friday.

BAGHDAD, Iraqi government spokesman on Friday denied reaching an agreement on replacing mainstream security forces with Kurdish forces Peshmerga in Diala’s disputed town.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Memorial meeting in London for martyr Kamil Shiaa

A memorial meeting for the prominent Iraqi intellectual and Communist, Kamil Shiaa, was held in London on Sunday 31 August 2008. The late comrade had been cowardly assassinated in Baghdad on 23 August 2008.

The meeting was organised by members of the martyr's family, including his son, Elias, and brother Faisal. Kamil Shiaa was remembered by close friends and intellectuals, as well as many members of the Iraqi and Arab communities, amid
sentiments of strong denunciation of the heinous crime.

After an opening speech by the artist Ziyad al-Khuza'i, the poet Fawzi Karim recited a poem dedicated to the memory of Kamil Shiaa. Dr. Salam Ali delivered a message of condolences from the editorial board of "Al-Thakafa Al-Jadida" (New Culture) magazine. The writer Ridha al-Dhahir read out a letter that Kamel Shiaa had sent to his son Elias, entitled "When we are in Baghdad". The writer Ali al-Shawk recalled his first meeting with Kamil. The Palestinian

journalist read out an article by Kamil entitled "A Return Without Illusions".

Kamil’s brother, Faisal, addressed the meeting on behalf of his family, thanking all those who expressed their solidarity with the martyr's family in their sorrow for the big loss.
The memorial meeting was concluded with an emotional speech delivered by Elias, the young son of Kamel Shiaa. He expressed his pride and great admiration for his father, and his gratitude to all those who demonstrated their love for the late comrade.