- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005


BAGHDAD — Officials running the election campaign of the coalition led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi have made light of the revelation that journalists attending its press conferences had been given envelopes containing a $100 note, calling the gift “just hospitality.”

About 20 envelopes were handed to reporters after one recent campaign meeting. Some journalists — including the only foreign reporter present — declined the present, but others accepted.

News of the largess, common practice during Saddam Hussein’s rule and in neighboring Arab countries, provoked speculation that Iraq was returning to the habits and customs of his Ba’ath Party regime.

“We have no excuse in your culture, but I’m from a tribal background, and in ours, it is just hospitality,” Adnan Janabi, campaign manager for the Iraq List coalition led by Mr. Allawi, said Tuesday.

“Our Iraqi press [members] are used to being treated nicely. My people think it impolite to let guests leave without offering hospitality. We could not give them a meal, so they were given money instead. Most of the Iraqi journalists were happy to use it for transport or whatever.”

“If we wanted to bribe the press, we would have to pay a lot more,” he added, with a laugh.

For a young Iraqi journalist, $100 is probably more than two weeks’ pay.

At a press conference Tuesday, when Mr. Allawi acknowledged that some parts of the country will be too unsafe to participate in the Jan. 30 elections, no envelopes were offered.

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