- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 21, 2004

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s interim government complained yesterday that the United Nations is not doing enough to help prepare for January elections, saying the organization has sent fewer election workers than it did when tiny East Timor voted to secede from Indonesia.

“It is unfortunate that the contribution and participation of U.N. employees in this process is not up to expectations,” Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters.

U.S. aircraft, meanwhile, mounted four strikes in Fallujah on what the U.S. military said were safe houses used by Abu Musab Zarqawi’s terror network. A Sunni Muslim clerical group demanded that the Iraqi government prevent any full-scale U.S. attack on Fallujah, hoping to muster the same public anger that forced the Marines to abandon a siege of the city in the spring.

In other violence, 11 American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded when two car bombs exploded in Samarra. An Iraqi child was killed, and a civilian was wounded, the Army said.

A suicide bomber in Baghdad detonated his car near a U.S. patrol on the airport road, wounding two American soldiers and two Iraqi policemen. Zarqawi’s terror organization took responsibility for the attack.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have stepped up operations seeking to curb insurgent violence, so that Iraqi voters throughout the country can choose a new transitional government in January.

But Mr. Zebari complained that the United Nations has not sent enough election experts to help prepare for the voting.

He said the number of U.N. workers expected to help in the election was far smaller than the 300 workers the United Nations sent for the 1999 independence referendum in East Timor.

Iraq has a population of more than 25 million, whereas East Timor’s population is estimated to be between 800,000 and 1 million.

The United Nations pulled its international staff out of the country a year ago after bombings at its Baghdad headquarters killed 22 persons, including the top U.N. envoy, Sergio Viera de Mello.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has since allowed a team to return to help with elections but imposed a ceiling of 35 non-Iraqi staffers. In the meantime, the United Nations is training Iraqis outside the country, so they can return and instruct other Iraqis on how to run an election.

Mr. Annan said Tuesday in London that he had sought to form a U.N. brigade to guard U.N. workers and facilities so more staffers could be sent in, but complained that he had gotten no offers of troops.

U.N. officials in New York said yesterday that Fiji was the only nation to respond to Mr. Annan’s request and would send 130 soldiers to Iraq next month to protect senior staff and U.N. offices.

Since the bombings at the U.N. headquarters a year ago, attacks on foreigners have grown worse. CARE International suspended operations in Iraq yesterday, a day after the aid group’s director for Iraq, Margaret Hassan, was abducted. Her family said yesterday they have received no demands from the kidnappers.

In other developments yesterday, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick, 38, pleaded guilty to five charges stemming from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Sgt. Frederick, the highest-ranking soldier charged in the abuse case, was expected to be sentenced today.

The U.S. command reported that a 26-year-old male security detainee died Tuesday at the U.S.-run Camp Bucca prison near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq. It said an investigation was under way to determine the cause of death.

The U.S. command said its warplanes struck more targets yesterday thought to be connected to Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad movement, which is thought to be based in the rebel bastion of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad.

“Intelligence reveals that anti-Iraqi forces have planned to use the holy month of Ramadan for attacks against the Iraqi interim government and innocent Iraqis,” the command said.

It denied witness reports that U.S. aircraft attacked a female teachers college and a house where a family of six was killed. The command accused “a known Zarqawi propagandist” of “passing false reports to the media.”

The Iraqi government had been negotiating with Fallujah representatives in hopes of ending the standoff in the city and allowing the Iraqi national guard to take over security duties there. But the talks broke down last week over what the Fallujah negotiators called the “impossible condition” that the city hand over Zarqawi and other foreign fighters. Fallujah leaders say Zarqawi is not there.

Yesterday, the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni organization with links to some insurgents, demanded that the government persuade the Americans to refrain from a full-scale attack on Fallujah.

Meanwhile, two Egyptian mobile-telephone engineers were released by kidnappers who abducted them from their Baghdad office last month, their employer said. The company said the release was mediated by Zarqawi’s organization.

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