2A - TheMichiganDaily-_Monday,_February_7,_2005
Wednesday, February 9
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Facing the
prospect of a Shiite Muslim landslide,
Sunni politicians offered on Saturday to
participate in mapping the nation's polit-
ical future. But Sunni rebels showed no
sign of compromise, killing three U.S.
troops and at least 33 Iraqis in a string
Officials of the Shiite-led coalition
that has rolled up a big lead in last week-
end's elections said it wants the prime
minister post in the upcoming gov-
ernment - casting doubt on chances
that U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad
Allawi can keep his job.
Meanwhile, police questioned the
driver and translator of Italian journal-
ist Giuliana Sgrena, who was seized by
gunmen Friday near Baghdad Univer-
sity - the first reported kidnapping of
a foreigner since the Jan. 30 vote. But
police said the two were not suspects in
Allawi, Whose ticket is running a dis-
tant second in election returns so far,
had been seen as a possible compromise
candidate if the Shiites and their allies
don't win the two-thirds of the 275
National Assembly seats needed to pick
But the United Iraqi Alliance - a
Shiite-led group whose leaders have ties
to Iran - appeared confident it would
have to be given the top spot.
"The Alliance would like to get either
the position of the president or the prime
minister and it prefers that it be that of
the prime minister," Redha Taqi, a top
official in one of the coalition factions,
told The Associated Press.
The presidency is a largely ceremo-
nial post, currently held by a Sunni
Arab, Ghazi al-Yawer. Kurdish leader
Jalal Talabani has announced his can-
didacy for president, and the Kurds
are likely to end up as one of the top
three blocs in the assembly. Shiites and
Kurds suffered under Saddam Husse-
in's regime and are expected to work
together in the assembly.
The Iraqi election commission
released no new election returns
Saturday, but predicted it would
announce final vote totals by Thurs-
day. The National Assembly must
elect a president and two vice presi-
dents by a two-thirds majority. The
three in turn select a prime minister
subject to assembly approval.
Partial returns from about 35 percent
of the 5,200 polling centers showed the
Alliance, which was endorsed by Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, with about
two-thirds of the votes to 18 percent
for Allawi, a secular Shiite. Shiites are
believed to make up two-thirds of Iraq's
26 million people.
Most of those returns were from Shi-
ite provinces where the Alliance, whose
leaders have links to Iran, had been
expected to run strong. No returns have
been announced from much of Baghdad
and from heavily Sunni Arab or Kurd-
But many Sunnis apparently stayed
at home on election day, heeding boy-
cott calls by hard-line clerics or fearing
insurgent attacks. That has raised fears
that the Sunni Arab minority, estimated
at 20 percent of the population, may not
accept a new Shiite-dominated govern-
ment, fueling the Sunni-led insurgency.
In a bid to avoid marginalization, a
group of Sunni Arab parties that refused
to participate in the election said Satur-
day they want to take part in the drafting
of a permanent constitution - a chief
task of the new National Assembly.
"The representatives of these politi-
cal bodies that did not participate in the
elections have decided in principle to
take part in the writing of the perma-
nent constitution in a suitable way," a
statement from the group said.
NEW'S IN BRIEF r.
Rice to meet with Palestinian PM
The United States will ask Israel to make "hard decisions" as it moves
toward peace with the Palestinians, and both sides must live up to their prom-
ises, Condoleezza Rice said yesterday during her first trip to the Middle East
as secretary of state.
Rice's two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank headquarters of the newly elect-
ed Palestinian government is meant to nudge both sides to take hold of what Rice
called. "a time of opportunity" and end four years of war.
Rice met privately yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the for-
mer warrior turned potential peacemaker. Today, she plans to visit with the Pales-
tinians' new president, Mahmoud Abbas.
"We will ask of our partners and our friends here in Israel that Israel continue to
make the hard decisions that must be taken in order to promote peace and help the
emergence of a democratic Palestinian state," Rice said yesterday.
Rice did not go into specifics. But among the major challenges are what to do
about Israeli outposts on land that Palestinians eventually would control; the fate
of the contentious separation barrier Israel is building between itself and the West
Bank; and new security arrangements with the Palestinians.
Bush to present budget to Congress
President Bush's $2.5 trillion budget is shaping up as his most austere,
trying to restrain spending across a wide swath of government from popular
farm subsidies to poor people's health programs.
Vice President Dick Cheney defended the plan yesterday against Demo-
cratic criticism that Bush had to seek steep cuts in scores of federal programs
because he is unwilling to roll back first-term tax cuts that opponents contend
primarily benefited the wealthy.
The budget's submission to Congress tomorrow will set off months of 0
intense debate. Lawmakers from both parties can be expected to vigorously
fight to protect their favorite programs.
"This is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here,"
Cheney told "Fox News Sunday." "It is a fair, reasonable, responsible, serious
piece of effort. It's not something we have done with a meat ax, nor are we
suddenly turning our backs on the most needy people in our society."
Togo clears legal path for appointed president
Togo's parliament hastily amended the constitution yesterday to put a legal
veneer on the military's appointment of 39-year-old Faure Gnassingbe to replace
his deceased father as president, voiding the need for new elections until 2008.
The military, within hours of the announcement of Gnassingbe Eyadema's death
on Saturday, named his son president, contravening the country's constitution that
called for the speaker of parliament to succeed the head of state until elections
could be held in 60 days.
The extraordinary session of the 81-member national assembly, dominated by
Eyadema's ruling Togo People's Rally party, overwhelmingly approved Gnassing-
be as speaker of parliament. It then passed a constitutional amendment allowing
him to fulfill his father's term, which expires in 2008.
Firms may face charges in oil-for-food scam
Companies that bought Iraqi oil from traders who allegedly spent billions of
dollars to bribe Saddam Hussein for contracts under the U.N. oil-for-food program
now could be implicated in the vast web of corruption uncovered in the investiga-
tion by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, a Swiss criminal lawyer
told The Associated Press yesterday. The alleged payoffs to win Iraqi contracts
amounted to as much as $2.5 billion, Mark Pieth said in an AP interview.
"We are trying to find out who paid the surcharges eventually," said Pieth, one
of three commission members leading a probe into allegations of corruption in the
program. Volcker heads the investigation and issued an interim report last week
in New York. Pieth was interviewed by telephone in New York where he joined
Volcker for the release of the report.
- Compiled from Daily wire reports
i~ut U tl
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