- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

BAGHDAD — Security officials yesterday opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing one man, after a group of workers gathered outside a government building to complain that they had not been fully paid.

Iraq’s newly elected lawmakers, meanwhile, announced that they would meet tomorrow to choose a National Assembly speaker and two deputies.

The assembly met March 16 but repeatedly has postponed a second meeting because of negotiations over Cabinet positions. It was not clear whether it would name the country’s new president, expected to be Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, at the session tomorrow.

Bodyguards for Science and Technology Minister Rashad Mandan Omar opened fire on the crowd of protesters gathered in front of the ministry’s offices demanding their full wages, said Hamid Balasem, an engineer at the ministry.

About 50 ministry guards were demonstrating, saying they had been paid only in part, Mr. Balasem said. It was not clear why the bodyguards opened fire.

In a letter to the Shi’ite-led United Iraqi Alliance, politicians who ran under a coalition formed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi’ite, warned against allowing religion to play a greater role in Iraq’s government, saying it could “lead to instability in the relations between political forces in the Iraqi arena.”

Some have worried that the Shi’ite dominance of the National Assembly could lead to the establishment of Islamic rule, although Shi’ite leaders repeatedly have denied making such plans and promised to form an inclusive government that has Kurds and Sunni Arabs in top Cabinet posts.

Influential Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani met with the top U.N. envoy in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, yesterday in Najaf, and told Mr. Qazi that he did not intend to involve himself in politics except for expressing his opinion in times of crises.

In continuing violence, police reported finding the bodies of a local official from the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq and two of his relatives in an abandoned car in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Terrorists also damaged an oil pipeline in northern Iraq, halting exports to Turkey. The pipeline has been targeted in the past.

Late Saturday, assailants opened fire on a cafe in Kirkuk, killing one and injuring three, said Sarhat Kadre of the police force in the ethnically mixed city. The motive in the attack was not known.

A video posted yesterday on the Internet purportedly showed an Iraqi Interior Ministry official being fatally shot by militants from Abu Musab Zarqawi’s terror network.

An Interior Ministry official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the purported victim had worked as a liaison officer between the Interior and Oil ministries and was kidnapped more than a month ago.

There was no way to independently authenticate the video, which was posted on a militant Web site.

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