Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's spokesman yesterday downplayed prospects for delaying national elections, noting that both the country's interim constitution and a UN Security Council resolution have mandated the balloting by the end of January.
Many Sunni Muslim politicians have called for a delay of six months in the elections, set for Jan. 30, because of the security situation.
During a press conference, Allawi's spokesman, Thair al-Naqeeb, did not unequivocally reject the demand. However, he said Allawi "considers seriously the responsibility given to him" by the interim constitution and the Security Council "to carry out elections at the end of January."
"The prime minister deeply understands the importance of this opinion" to delay the balloting "but he also understands the insistence of other political parties and national figures for holding elections on time."
He was referring among others to the country's Shiite clerical hierarchy which has insisted that the balloting be held on schedule.
Al-Naqeeb said the election commission had assured Allawi they are ready to hold the election on Jan. 30 despite the security crisis in Sunni Muslim sections of central, northern and western Iraq.
The spokesman also said Allawi, a secular Shiite, was not convinced that delaying the election would guarantee broader participation. Sunni Muslim clerics have called for a boycott to protest the US-led attack on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, and insurgent groups have dismissed the balloting.
Al-Naqeeb also denied that Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party had joined in calling for a delay, although he confirmed that a member was present at a meeting Friday in which other groups issued the call.
"Yes there were representatives from the party who were invited to the meeting yesterday," al-Naqeeb said. "They did not participate in the statement. They were just listening to the other parties."
In other Iraq news, three people died and about a dozen were injured yesterday in three separate explosions in Baghdad, police and hospital sources said.
On central al-Rasheed Street, two people were killed and at least 10 injured when an explosive device concealed in a pushcart went off near the Central Bank as two US Humvees drove through the area, a spokesman said.
The two who died were passers-by, while most of the injured were guards at the bank, he said.
Four stores adjacent to the bank were damaged, Abd said, adding the bomb was hidden under old electrical appliances in the cart.
Separately, two US military vehicles were damaged by a bomb on the highway near Baghdad International Airport.
A military statement said a "vehicle-borne improvised explosive device" had damaged the armored military shuttle buses. No casualties were reported from the incident, it said.
Insurgents routinely target US convoys on the airport road, which is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in Iraq.
Meanwhile, another roadside bomb in the neighborhood of al-Saydiyah in south Baghdad killed a bystander and injured a police captain, hospital sources said.
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