AMARAH, Iraq (AP) - Impatience
with Iraq's occupying forces boiled
over yesterday as unemployed Iraqis
pelted British troops with stones and a
top Shiite Muslim cleric demanded the
country's next parliament be elected -
not chosen by local caucuses, as fore-
seen by the Americans.
Also yesterday, a U.S.-backed Iraqi
politician said an ongoing purge of
members of Saddam Hussein's Baath
party had pushed 28,000 Iraqis from
their jobs, with a similar number
expected to follow.
In the southern city of Amarah,
waves of protesters - some armed
with sticks and shovels - rushed
British troops guarding the city hall, a
day after clashes here killed six pro-
testers and wounded at least 11.
The British drove the crowd back
from the compound, which also houses
the U.S.-led occupation force and the 1st
Battalion of Britain's Light Infantry.
Booms and flashes of light from
makeshift bombs exploded in the melee.
"We are trying to permit a peaceful
protest but prevent loss of life or dam-
age to property," said British Maj.
Tensions in Amarah, 200 miles
southeast of Baghdad, erupted Satur-
day after hundreds of Iraqis gathered to
protest that authorities had not kept a
promise to give them jobs. Yesterday,
demonstrators said they were looking
to avenge those killed Saturday. There
were no reports of injuries yesterday.
Demonstrators sent a representative
to talk to British and Iraqi officials,
who promised them 8,000 jobs,
according to witnesses. But protesters
said a similar promise made weeks
before had not been fulfilled and the
clash ensued. Prior to the U.S.-led
invasion of Iraq, Saddam's security
forces were the biggest employer in
this city of 400,000.
Yesterday's comments by Iraq's top
Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-
Husseini al-Sistani, could complicate
American plans to hand over sover-
eignty to the Iraqis by July 1.
Al-Sistani, whose views are highly
influential among Iraq's Shiite majority,
said the current U.S. plan to have region-
al caucuses select members of a provi-
sional national assembly would give
birth to an illegitimate Iraqi government.
"This will, in turn, give rise to new
problems and the political and secu-
rity situation will deteriorate," al-Sis-
tani said in a statement released by
his office in the holy Shiite city of
Najaf, south of Baghdad.
Al-Sistani demanded the assembly be
directly elected, saying credible elections
could be held in Iraq within months.
Al-Sistani also balked at U.S. plans
to seek quick approval for the contin-
ued occupation of Iraq through its
hand-picked Governing Council. The
ayatollah said only an elected govern-
ment could sign off on the presence of
U.S. troops beyond July 1.
Al-Sistani's opposition forced the
Americans to change their transition
plans once already. Participation by
Shiites - who make up 60 percent of
Iraq's 25 million people - is essential
to the success of the transition.
But drafting a new plan to accom-
modate his views would make Wash-
ington look like it is allowing its Iraq
policies to be held hostage to the
wishes of one man. It also would fur-
ther anger Iraq's minority Sunnis who
had dominated politics in Iraq for
decades and are bristling at the atten-
tion given now to the Shiites they
have traditionally oppressed.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands more
former high-level Baathists are set to
lose their jobs in ongoing purges, said.
Governing Council member Ahmad
Chalabi, a favorite of the Pentagon who
heads a committee aimed at ridding Iraq
of the influence of Saddam's party.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY
"FIFTY YEARS SINCE BROWN V BOARD
Christopher Edley, Jr.
Founding Co-Director of the Civil
Rights Project At Harvard
NEWS IN BRIEFK^K
WOL HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE WORLDBU
Turkey allows U.S. access to air base
The American military has begun using an air base in southern Turkey for a
massive rotation of troops in and out of Iraq, a U.S. official told The Associated
Press yesterday in a sign of improved U.S.-Turkish relations.
Turkey's granting permission to use its Incirlik air base marks a sharp
contrast to last year, when the country - opposed to the invasion to oust
Saddam Hussein - refused to allow U.S. troops on its territory for the war
against its southern neighbor.
It also comes as NATO-ally Turkey is increasingly eager to win favor with the
United States amid concerns over Iraqi Kurdish demands for greater autonomy in
oil-rich northern Iraq. Turkey, and neighbors Syria and Iran, fear Iraqi Kurds
might eventually push for independence and bring instability to their borders.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to raise Turkey's concerns
about Iraq during talks with President Bush in Washington later this month.
The use of Incirlik helps the United States as it deals with the largest move-
ment of troops in decades. The military is preparing to send some 130,000 U.S.
troops in Iraq home over the coming months, replacing them with a more mobile,
less heavily armed force of about 110,000.
With Incirlik only an hour's flight from Iraq, the U.S. military has maintained a
presence there since the 1950s, making it an ideal location to support the rotations.
Secret Israeli meetings with Syria revealed
Israel had secret contacts with Syria several months ago - well before
recent Syrian overtures - but they broke down after word of the meetings
leaked out, Israel's foreign minister said yesterday. Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon said he was ready to open negotiations if Syria "stops helping terror."
The secret meetings appeared part of an effort to restart peace talks between Israel
and one of its most intractable enemies. Earlier talks broke down in 2000.
Syrian President Bashar Assad called last month for a resumption of offi-
cial talks, but Israel leaders are split over whether to take up his offer.
Sharon said yesterday that Israel would readily restart negotiations with Syria, once
Syria stopped aiding and harboring terrorist groups that continue to attack Israel. The
main Palestinian militant groups all operate on Syrian territory.
"Israel is ready and willing to negotiate once Syria, of course, stops help-
ing terror," he told a news conference for foreign journalists.
While peace efforts with the Palestinians remain stalled, Foreign Minister
Silvan Shalom and some other officials have been publicly pushing the
government to accept Syria's offer to restart talks.
turs from civets to rats
Medical investigators scrutinized
an apartment complex's sewage,
water and garbage systems yester-
day, trying to track down the source
of China's first SARS case of the
season, even as reports of another
suspected victim emerged.
Meanwhile, the province of Guang-
dong, where the confirmed and the sus-
pected cases are all located, turned its
attention from the slaughter of civet cats
- a wild animal that is eaten as a local
delicacy but is thought to be a means of
transmitting SARS - to eradicating a
more reviled form of vermin: rats.
The new suspected case was a 35-
year-old man in Guangdong, who has
been isolated and hospitalized in stable
condition, said Thomas Tsang, a consult-
ant attached to the Department of Health
in Hong Kong. He said officials in neigh-
boring Guangdong had informed Hong
Kong of the possible case.
over mad cow blame
Canadian cattle ranchers insist the
North American cattle industry is so
intertwined that it makes little sense to
differentiate between American and
Canadian beef. That's why they're
angry about American finger pointing
following the discoveries last year of
mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, in an Alberta Black
Angus cow and a Washington state
Holstein traced to Alberta.
Efforts by some in the American cattle
industry and politics to distance them-
selves from Canadian beef, including an
ongoing U.S. ban on imports, appears to
blame Canada for the two cases of the
brain-wasting disease, they said.
"We've never viewed BSE as a Cana-
dian or U.S. problem, it's a North Ameri-
can problem," said rancher Neil Jahnke.
Mars rover move
NASA scientists said yesterday
they had decided to keep the Spirit
rover on its lander for an extra day,
putting off its rollout onto the mar-
tian landscape until at least-late
NASA adjusted the robot's schedule
based on analysis of photos and data it
sent back, they said, and added that
another day-long delay is possible. That's
not unusual given the complex nature of
the mission, they said.
"We adjust (and plan) every day to
manage risks and resources," Arthur
Amador, a mission manager, said at
a news conference.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports.
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