2 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 24, 2004
US. refuses release
of Iraqi prisoners
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Authorities
insisted yesterday that they won't give in to
militants' demands to free female Iraqi pris-
oners despite the plea of a tearful British hos-
tage begging Britain to save his life in a video
released by his captors.
Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand
-Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said increasing vio-
lence must not be used as a pretext for delaying
elections scheduled for late January.
Al-Sistani "stresses the necessity of holding
elections on time and the necessity of preparing
the atmosphere ... under international supervi-
sion to be credible and transparent," Hamed al-
Khafaf, an aide to the ayatollah, said yesterday
in a telephone interview from Beirut.
Iraq's Shiite majority is eager to hold elec-
tions since they expect to dominate whatever
government emerges. U.N. chief Kofi Annan,
however, has questioned whether elections can
take place if violence does not ease.
Violence has intensified in recent weeks. For
a second day, U.S. forces battled Shiite militia-
men in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, with
U.S. warplanes firing on insurgents. Hospital
officials said at least one person was killed and
12 were wounded.
An explosion went off yesterday evening
in Baghdad, though its cause was not imme-
diately known. The military announced that a
U.S. Marine was killed the day before in Anbar
province, west of Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, in an
address to a joint session of Congress, said
elections would be held as scheduled and
insisted U.S. and Iraqi forces would rein in the
"Elections will occur in Iraq on time in
January because Iraqis want elections on
time," Allawi said. "We could hold elections
tomorrow" in 15 of 18 provinces, he said, even
though terror operatives hope to disrupt them.
He cautioned that the election may not come
off perfectly. He assured it will be free and fair,
"a giant step" in Iraq's political evolution.
The fighting and rash of kidnappings have
shown the vulnerability even in the capital,
where British hostage Kenneth Bigley and
two American colleagues were abducted
from their home last week. The two Ameri-
cans were beheaded and their bodies dumped
not far from their Baghdad residence.
Allawi expressed his condolences for the
Americans' deaths. "Yet as we mourn these loss-
es, we must not forget the progress we are mak-
ing or what is at stake in Iraq. We are fighting for
peace and democracy,"he told U.S. lawmakers.
In a video made public Wednesday, Big-
ley appealed to British Prime Minister Tony
Blair to intervene and meet his kidnappers'
demands. "I think this is possibly my last
chance," he said. "I don't want to die."
Bigley's brother, Paul, accused the United
States of wrecking efforts to save his brother's
life after U.S. officials and Allawi quickly
quashed a comment by an Iraqi official that
one of the female prisoners would be freed by
NEWS IN BRIEF
Tax relief package rushed through Congress
Congress yesterday rushed to pass a $145.9billion package of tax reliefthat would
extend three popular middle class tax cuts and hand President Bush his fourth major
tax victory since taking office.
The House began debate on the package with Senate leaders promising to take up
the measure as soon as it won House passage.
Republicans who control Congress were anxious to pass the legislation needed to
extend the popular tax measures and give the president a big legislative victory in
the closing weeks of his campaign for re-election.
Without action, the three provisions affecting an estimated 94 million Americans
would expire at the end of this year.
The legislation keeps the per child tax credit at $1,000, retains an expanded 10
percent income bracket that affects virtually all taxpayers and retains provisions to
provide tax relief for married couples.
"The choice is between raising taxes on millions of families and individuals next
year or sparing them that tax increase," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman
Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). "The president made this a priority and I hope to have a
bill on his desk within days."
Court may lose authority in pledge cases
The House passed a bill yesterday that would prevent the Supreme Court
from ruling on whether the words "under God" should be stricken from the
Pledge of Allegiance.
In a politically and emotionally charged debate, Democrats said majority
Republicans in the chamber were debasing the Constitution in order to force a
vote that could hurt Democrats in the election.
Supporters insisted that Congress has always had authority to limit federal
court jurisdiction, and the legislation is needed to protect an affirmation of
religion that is part of the national heritage.
The bill, which was passed 247 to 173, would prohibit federal courts, including the
Supreme Court, from hearing cases involving the pledge and its recitation and would
prevent federal courts from striking the words "under God" from the pledge.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip
Gunmen kill three Israeli soldiers in shootout
Palestinian gunmen made their way into a heavily fortified Israeli army post in
the Gaza Strip under cover of morning fog Yesterday and started shooting, killing
three Israeli soldier.s in a 45-minute firefight.
Two attackers were killed soon afterward, but a third hid near the post for sev-
eral hours before firing on journalists inspecting the scene, wounding an Israeli
newspaper reporter in the leg.
The infiltration came as Israeli forces wrapped up an operation in a nearby *
Gaza refugee camp amid signs of increasing tensions and violence ahead of Isra-
el's planned withdrawal from Gaza next year.
Taking advantage of heavy fog, Palestinian gunmen slipped unnoticed into the
post at about 6 a.m. and opened fire, killing an Israeli officer and two soldiers and
critically wounding another soldier, the military said.
Flu shot usage not sufficiently widespread
Of the Americans who most need a flu shot, fewer than half actually get one,
federal health officials warned yesterday as they called for special attention to
babies, toddlers and the elderly as vaccinations begin next month.
A record 100 million doses of flu vaccine will be available this year, the vast
majority of it shipped to doctors' offices by the end of October, said Keiji Fukuda
of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That assurance comes several months after one major supplier, Chiron Corp.,
delayed its shipments because a small amount of vaccine failed sterility testing,
suggesting contamination. That was "a precautionary move," and close monitor-
ing so far suggests the rest of Chiron's supply is fine, Fukuda said.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports
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Supporters of radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, stay
ready at a battle position in Sadr City, Iraq, Tuesday.
Iraq may need more troops
WASHINGTON - Denying he
has painted too rosy a picture about
Iraq, President Bush said yesterday
he would consider sending more
troops if asked, but Iraq's interim
leader firmly said they weren't
heeded. With violence spreading,
Defense Secretary Donald Rums-
feld suggested parts of Iraq might
have to be excluded from elections
Bush and Prime Minister Ayad
Allawi, standing in the Rose Garden
under a bright sun, agreed that Iraq
is making steady progress despite
bombings, beheadings and violence
that has claimed the lives of more
than 1,000 Americans.
"On television sets around the
world we see acts of violence yet in
most of Iraq, children are about to
go back to school, parents are going
back to work and new businesses are
being opened," Bush said. Allawi
said 14 or 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces
"are completely safe."
Rumsfeld, at a Senate committee,
was asked how elections could be
held if Fallujah and other restive cit-
ies remained in revolt in when U.N.-
supervised elections are to be held
"So be it," Rumsfeld said. He said
"it could be" that violence in Iraq
will be worse by January. The result,
he said, would be "an election that's
not quite perfect." But he said that
some balloting would be better than
none at all.
The Bush-Allawi joint news con-
ference, in the midst of the presi-
dential campaign, echoed Bush's
campaign speeches and the themes
of his attacks against Democratic
presidential candidate John Kerry.
Six weeks before the election,
Allawi strongly supported Bush's
policy. On his first official visit to
Washington, the prime minister told
a joint meeting of Congress that "the
values of liberty and democracy"
are taking hold in Iraq despite set-
backs. He offered a simple, "Thank
you, America" for driving Saddam
Hussein from power.
Kerry contends Bush has been
dishonest about the war's rationale
and cost and lacks an effective strat-
egy to end the crisis.
While Kerry urges a start of troop
withdrawals within six months and
complete pullout in four years, Bush
and Allawi said the United States
must stand and fight.
"If we stop fighting the terror-
ists in Iraq, they would be free to
plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in
America and other free nations,"
the president said, linking Iraq with
the more politically popular war
on terror. "To retreat now would
betray our mission, our word and
our friends. ... America will keep its
Without mentioning Kerry by
name, Bush and Allawi suggested
his criticism was undercutting Iraq
and the United States. "You can
embolden an enemy by sending
mixed messages," Bush said.
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