- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said yesterday that parts of Iraq probably will be too unsafe for people to vote in the Jan. 30 elections, as violence persisted with two bomb blasts killing at least 13 Iraqis in locations north and south of Baghdad.

Mr. Allawi discussed preparations for the elections by telephone with President Bush yesterday, and both leaders underscored the importance of going ahead with the vote as planned, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Mr. Allawi said at a press conference that “hostile forces are trying to hamper this event.”

“Certainly, there will be some pockets that will not be able to participate in the elections for these reasons, but we think that it will not be widespread,” he said.

Iraq’s Anbar province, a vast area that stretches from west of Baghdad to the Jordanian, Syrian and Saudi borders, and the northern city of Mosul have seen little preparation for the vote because of tenuous security.

The capital also is experiencing an increase in insurgent activity, and residents of some districts may be reluctant to vote for fear of attacks on voting places.

Others have cited concerns about the balloting. Late last week, Air Force Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, the deputy chief of staff for strategic communications in Iraq, said there were two provinces that give the Americans “significant concern” — Anbar, which includes the city of Fallujah, and Nineveh, which includes Mosul. He said the Americans were taking “aggressive action” to ensure the vote can be held there.

Yesterday, Jordan’s ambassador to Washington, Karim Kawar, warned that more than 40 percent of Iraqis would be unable to participate in the vote. “This raises questions about the authenticity of the elections,” he said.

The elections will be held under the system of proportionate representation, and there will be no electoral boundaries. Organizers have said those unable to cast ballots in troubled areas would be allowed to vote elsewhere.

Iraq’s long-oppressed Shi’ite majority has embraced the elections, while influential Sunni clerics are calling for a boycott.

Mr. Allawi said the government was reaching out to tribal and religious leaders in some of Iraq’s volatile areas to try to get them to participate in the vote.

In Cairo, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the government planned to meet with parties supporting the call for a boycott. He said a nongovernmental organization, the Iraqi Council for Peace and Solidarity, is hosting a conference Sunday in Baghdad on reconciliation between the government and its opponents.

In violence yesterday, a roadside bomb hit a minibus full of Iraqis in Yussifiyah, south of Baghdad. A hospital official in the town said the bomb went off minutes after a U.S. convoy had passed. Seven Iraqis were killed.

A suicide car bomber who targeted a police headquarters in former dictator Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit killed six persons, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal O’Brien said. Police said 12 persons were wounded.

Two militant groups — Ansar al-Sunna and al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi — took responsibility for the Tikrit attack in statements posted on the Internet.

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