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Iraqis say ‘no to terrorism’
From combined dispatches
BAGHDAD — Hundreds of pro-coalition demonstrators chanting “yes to Iraq, no to terrorism” marched through Baghdad yesterday amid a huge security operation mounted by American and Iraqi forces.
Led by the relatives of two policemen killed in twin suicide bombings last Saturday and protected by two U.S. helicopters and scores of heavily armed Iraqi policemen, the marchers rallied in Firdus Square, where a large bronze statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled by Iraqis and U.S. Marines on April 9 after the fall of Baghdad in the U.S.-led invasion. The march came one day after the surprise visit by President Bush to U.S. forces.
A minibus carrying two symbolic coffins drove ahead of mourners and a three-member band played a funeral march as the demonstrators passed the Palestine Hotel, which was hit by an explosion last month.
Aziz al-Yasser, the coordinator of the demonstration organized by the Alliance of Iraqi Democratic Forces, said hundreds of people stayed away because of fears that the protest march could be attacked.
“We want democracy and reconstruction. Terror is delaying both,” he said.
Many of the demonstrators had lost relatives or had family members who had been injured in terrorist attacks in recent months.
Abdul Amir Kalandar, a prominent political leader from the northern city of Kirkuk, which was hit by a suicide bombing that killed five persons last week, said Saddam loyalists were not only attacking schools and hospitals but also destroying the region’s economic infrastructure with their sabotage of oil fields.
Also yesterday, Democrat Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Jack Reed of Rhode Island toured Baghdad, just hours after Mr. Bush’s surprise Thanksgiving Day visit.
The former first lady and Mr. Reed have been critical of the Bush administration’s handling of postwar operations in both countries.
Mrs. Clinton said it’s not too late to bring the United Nations back to Iraq and transfer some of the expense and pressure of administering Iraq to a wider group of nations.
“I’m a big believer that we ought to internationalize this, but it will take a big change in our administration’s thinking,” she said. “I don’t see that it’s forthcoming.”
In Baghdad, an explosion slightly damaged a highway overpass, and the military said that two U.S. soldiers died in separate incidents in central and northern Iraq.
One soldier died on Thanksgiving from a gunshot wound inside the heavily fortified base in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. It was not immediately clear how the shooting occurred, a military statement said.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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