- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BAGHDAD | An Iraqi journalist for one of the Middle East’s best-known satellite television stations escaped assassination Tuesday when a bomb was found under the seat of his car as he prepared to leave home for work.

The attempt against Jawad al-Hattab, Baghdad bureau manager for Al Arabiya television, illustrates the dangers facing Iraqis despite the decline in violence.

Mr. al-Hattab’s driver and a security guard discovered the laptop-sized bomb as they waited to pick up the correspondent at his home in central Baghdad, according to the station’s executive editor, Nabil Khatib.

The two moved away from the car and summoned police but the device exploded before they arrived, heavily damaging the vehicle and setting it on fire, Mr. Khatib said.

Al Arabiya, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is among the most popular Arabic TV news stations and has been criticized by Iraqi hard-liners who believe it is too pro-West.

“Some [Web] sites describe us as renegades and collaborators with the Americans,” said Al Arabiya correspondent Majid Hameed, who was detained by the Americans in September 2005 and released without charge four months later.

Small explosive devices concealed in cars have been increasingly used by Iraqi militants to target government employees and Iraqi military officials now that heightened security has made it difficult to mount major truck bomb attacks that were common a few years ago.

U.S. officials have urged the Iraqis to take advantage of the improved security to reach political agreements among rival Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish communities to ensure a lasting peace.

But political progress has lagged behind military gains against al Qaeda in Iraq and other militant groups.

On Tuesday, Iraqi lawmakers ended their summer break and convened their fall session under strong pressure to move on key issues such as provincial elections and regulating the oil industry.

Parliament must also ratify a security pact governing U.S. military operations after American and Iraqi negotiators finalize the agreement.

The session got off to a slow start. Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani opened it two hours late because not enough members showed up on time for a quorum.

Tuesday’s session was held in the Baghdad Convention Center inside the U.S.-protected Green Zone, despite an announcement last June that the assembly would meet in the former National Assembly building outside the zone.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. military released a camera operator for an Iraqi TV station, Omar Husham, 28, who was detained five days ago with his father in a Sunni area of Baghdad.

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