Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Catholic archbishop kidnapped in northern Iraq was freed Tuesday without any ransom being paid, a day after he was seized by gunmen, the Vatican said. (AP)

Iraq will seal its borders, extend a curfew and restrict movement to protect voters during the Jan. 30 election, officials announced Tuesday after the latest major insurgent attack - a suicide bombing that killed three people outside the offices of a leading Shiite political party. (AP) Also another story on the election security measures from the BBC.

A car bomb has exploded in south Baghdad, killing four guards and injuring eight people near the offices of a leading Iraqi Shia party, Aljazeera reports. Tuesday's bomb exploded by a checkpoint barrier about 60m from the headquarters of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an important Shia party. (Al Jazeera)

Broadcasters are beefing up their roles in preparation for the Jan 30. elections. (Waveguide [UK])

“Hotel journalism” is the only word for it. More and more, Western reporters in Baghdad are reporting from their hotels rather than the streets of Iraq’s towns and cities. Some are accompanied everywhere by hired and heavily armed Western mercenaries. A few live in local offices from which their editors refuse them permission to leave. Most use Iraqi “stringers” — part-time correspondents who risk their lives to conduct interviews for American or British journalists — and none can contemplate a journey outside the capital without days of preparation unless they “embed” themselves with American or British forces. (Al-Jazeerah.info)

A series of new U.S. intelligence assessments on Iraq paint a grim picture of the road ahead and conclude that there's little likelihood that President Bush's goals can be attained in the near future. Instead of stabilizing the country, national elections Jan. 30 are likely to be followed by more violence and could provoke a civil war between majority Shiite Muslims and minority Sunni Muslims, the CIA and other intelligence agencies predict, according to senior officials who have seen the classified reports. (San Jose Mercury News)

People are eager to vote in this Shi'ite Muslim city located more than 200 miles from the turmoil of Baghdad and adjoining Sunni Muslim strongholds, say local officials who boast of success keeping violence to a minimum by working with tribal, religious and political leaders. In the city's police-run operations room, blue lines cut across large hanging maps of this ancient city, dividing it into areas that Iraqi police and multinational forces will protect during the Jan. 30 elections. (Washington Times)

Iraq's coming election offers voters a dizzying array of choices. Communists, Islamists, monarchists, and neo-Baathists are lining up for a slice of power in the new government. While they have intensely different views on what sort of state Iraq should be, there is one thing on which almost all of them agree: The threat of being killed for participating in the political process is likely to rise in the days and weeks ahead. (Christian Science Monitor)

Editorial: Even flawed Iraq elections better than delaying vote. As with most everything involving the United States and Iraq, the upcoming elections are unlikely to come off entirely as hoped or planned. But despite the lack of security in some parts of the country, justifiable fears that might keep many Iraqis from the polls and a possible boycott by the Sunni minority, the election should take place as scheduled on Jan. 30. (Pantagraph.com [Central Illinois])

There have been many desperate days for Iraqis in Metro Detroit since U.S. troops helped Iraqis pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad 21 months ago. But Monday was for celebration. The smiling faces of freedom and democracy trumped the bitter cold, as hundreds of Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans traveled for as long as three hours to register to vote in an abandoned building supply warehouse for the upcoming Iraqi elections. (The Detroit News)

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