Thursday, January 20, 2005

A rift emerged within Iraq's electoral commission today, as its spokesman refused to quit despite a board decision to scrap his job, just 10 days before the landmark January 30 vote. "In the light of the sensitive security and political situation, to preserve the credibility and transparency of the commission's work... and to guarantee its independence, the commission has decided to suppress the position of official spokesman until further notice," the commission said in a statement. (News Interactive [Australia])

Iraq's Minister for Provincial Affairs accused Iran of spreading its "sphere of influence" throughout Iraq, in preparation for the January 30th elections. "Many Iranians are producing fake Iraqi identity cards to be able to take part in the elections", Wa'el Abdol-Latif said, speaking to the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (Middle East) daily yesterday. In particular Abdol-Latif warned that the Iranian regime was becoming very influential in Basra. (Iran Focus)

Staff members of a group helping Iraqis register to vote in their homeland's upcoming elections were forced out of their suburban Chicago offices by village officials concerned about a possible attack on the building. The International Organisation for Migration plans to move its 15 paid workers to the northwest side of Chicago from Niles, said on Thursday Oliver Vick, who heads the organisation's local office. "We are having to move our offices, and we are moving to continue serving the Iraqi community in the best possible way," Vick said. Niles is a village north of the city. (Al Jazeera)

Sunni Vote Boycott May Not Hurt Community. There are no election posters anywhere in sight in Baghdad's Sunni stronghold of Azamiyah. Even when a single banner for a Sunni-led party was put up recently, local youths promptly hauled it down. Iraq's majority Shiites are embracing the Jan. 30 vote, which is expected to confirm their new status as the country's most politically powerful group. Many Sunni leaders want the vote postponed, and militant Sunni clerics are calling for a boycott. (AP)

Frank Devine: Elections in tough places give optimism a good name. (The Australian)

Spirit of America is attempting to create a network of bloggers in Iraq to provide grassroots information during the elections. [I wish I knew how to read Arabic -ed.]

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