We cannot allow the terrorists to stop elections, says Allawi

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The Independent Online

Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim prime minister, has vowed that the country's 30 January elections will go ahead despite continuing violence, including two car bombs in separate regions yesterday, that killed at least 25 people.

Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim prime minister, has vowed that the country's 30 January elections will go ahead despite continuing violence, including two car bombs in separate regions yesterday, that killed at least 25 people.

"We will not allow the terrorists to stop the political process in Iraq," Mr Allawi, a secular Shia, told reporters. "The elections process is the basis for the deepening of the national unity in Iraq."

Insurgents drawn from the country's Sunni minority have launched a violent campaign to disrupt the parliamentary elections, which are being overseen by the Independent Iraqi Election Commission, with aid from the United Nations.

On Tuesday, the governor of Baghdad, Ali al-Haidari, was assassinated, causing the interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, to question whether the poll could take place as planned.

But Mr Allawi said: "The government is committed to running the elections on schedule. We know some Iraqis fear voting, but we have to overcome those fears."

The high level of violence has prevented election workers from registering voters in huge swathes of the country where Sunnis dominate. To encourage more Sunni participation in the elections, the independent commission voted yesterday to allow Iraqis in Nineveh province, which includes the city of Mosul, and Anbar province, including the rebel strongholds of Fallujah and Ramadi, to register to vote on election day itself.

Hareth Mohammad Hassan, the commission's deputy executive director, said other changes to the rules might be made. "Even in Baghdad we have some parts of the city that might need some exceptional solutions," he said. "During this month we're going to deal with those problems. The aim is to give the chance to each citizen in Iraq to vote."

Up to 14 million Iraqis are eligible to vote as part of a multi-stage plan to transform Iraq from an occupied country into a functioning democracy. But after Tuesday's assassination, violence continued unabated yesterday. The first bombing was outside a police graduation ceremony in Hilla, a mostly Shia city 60 miles south of Baghdad, killing at least 20.

In Baqubah, a city with a mixed Shia and Sunni population 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, a suicide bomber drove car into a checkpoint, killing at least five police and wounding eight, a US military spokesman said. During another attack in the same city, gunmen shot dead an Iraqi police colonel and his driver.

To allay security fears during the election, Mr Hassan said that travel restrictions might be imposed days before the poll. He said he could not confirm a widely circulating rumour that authorities would shut down the country's anyway increasingly unreliable Iraqna mobile phones, which are often used by insurgents to detonate explosive devices.

The US Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry, arriving from Amman on an announced fact-finding visit to the capital, said yesterday that he had come to see just how bad security conditions had become. "I'm here to make judgments about what moves are available to us," he said, criticising what he called Washington's decision to invade without a clear plan for the occupation.

"What is sad about what's happening is that so much of it is a process of catching up from the enormous miscalculations made in the beginning," he said.

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