Mon, Jun 28, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Allawi says Iraqi polls to take place end of January

AGENCIES , BAGHDAD, LONDON AND ISTANBUL

Elections will take place in Iraq as planned by the end of January, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi insisted yesterday, playing down his earlier comments that violence could delay the polls.

"We will do it by the 31st of January," Allawi said, when asked by a small group of reporters to clarify his comments to CBS television on Saturday that Iraq's tenuous security situation could delay elections by two months.

"That was a great misinterpretation," he said. "It was taken out of context."

He told the US channel that he was committed to elections and one of his key tasks after the June 30 return of Iraqi sovereignty was to ensure they took place.

"However, security will be the main feature of whether we will be able to do it in January, February or March," Allawi said, according to a transcript of the CBS interview.

Elections are scheduled for January, but the insurgency has threatened to derail the political process due to the carnage caused by regular car bombings as well as mortar and rocket attacks.

Allawi and his interior and defense ministers have raised the idea of declaring emergency law in parts of Iraq as they seek to crush the insurgency.

Allawi has also asked NATO to train Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi security is expected to a major topic of discussion during the NATO summit in Istanbul today and tomorrow.

The US may not have to send more troops to Iraq, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday in Istanbul.

"The real task of security is not to flood a country with more and more troops," Rumsfeld told BBC Television from Istanbul.

He said the US Army was making contingency plans for more troops, should commanders in Iraq request reinforcements.

"That does not mean that we will necessarily need them, that means we will do the prudent planning," he added.

Rumsfeld said Washington would have hoped for a better security situation in Iraq after the war but he said he expected the Iraqi people would be able to recapture their country from radical militants he linked to al-Qaeda.

On the wider war on terror and the battle between extremists and radicals, Rumsfeld said it was hard to say who was winning.

"Answering the question as to whether we are winning that is a very difficult one," he said.

It was impossible to know how many new recruits were signing up and being trained, Rumsfeld said.

"Unless one knows that, you can't answer the question of if you are winning or losing," he added.

Meanwhile, Turkey's defense minister said his government would not negotiate with terrorists in Iraq who are threatening to behead three Turkish hostages.

Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul made his statement after a meeting with Rumsfeld.

Supporters of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist, say they will behead the hostages if Turkish companies continue to do business with US occupation forces in Iraq.

``Turkey will not bow to pressure from terrorists,'' private CNN-Turk and TV8 television stations quoted Gonul as saying.

``Turkey will not bow to pressure from terrorists,'' private CNN-Turk and TV8 television stations quoted Gonul as saying.

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Iraqi interim PM offers `desperate' rebels amnesty

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