Sat, Apr 14, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Iraqi lawmakers pledge solidarity after bombing

AP , BAGHDAD

Iraqi lawmakers expressed outrage and resolve yesterday in a rare session of parliament on the Muslim holy day, less than 24 hours after a suicide bomber blasted through Green Zone security to kill one of their own.

A red and white bouquet sat in place of Mohammed Awad, a Sunni member of the moderate National Dialogue Front killed in Thursday's brazen attack on the parliament cafeteria. Lawmakers ambled up to the podium to denounce the bombing, including one man with his arm in a sling and a woman wearing a neck brace.

"The more they [terrorists] act, the more solid we become. When they take from us one martyr, we will offer more martyrs," Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi said. "The more they target our unity, the stronger our unity becomes.''

But the turnout was low because of a weekly driving ban on the Muslim day of rest.

"Very few parliament members showed up because of the curfew," said Mohammed Abu Bakr, head of the parliament's media office. "Also the MP's turnout is very low today because most of them are visiting those who were wounded by the blast," he said.

Some additional members filed into the parliament room and took their seats after the session was under way, but the room remained less than half full. The meeting began late, and adjourned after about 90 minutes.

The parliament chamber bore no signs of damage, but cleanup had yet to begin elsewhere in the building, where investigators were still combing through the debris for clues as to who was behind the attack and how they penetrated the tightest security in Baghdad -- the heavily fortified Green Zone compound, which houses the US embassy as well as offices of the Iraqi government.

"The cafeteria is still not clean. There is still flesh of the bomber on the floor," Abu Bakr said. "Broken glass has not been removed, and a meeting hall is still full of dust."

Both Iraqi and US officials yesterday revised down their estimates of those killed. The US issued a statement saying one civilian was killed.

But Iraqi parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani opened yesterday's session by asking members to recite verses from the Koran to mourn the death of a "hero, the parliament member Mohammed Awad."

The meeting was "a clear message to all the terrorists and all those who dare try to stop this [political] process, that we will sacrifice in order for it to continue,'' al-Mashhadani said.

"We feel today that we are stronger that yesterday," he said. "The parliament, government and the people are all the same -- they are all in the same ship which, if it sinks, will make everyone sink."

State-run Iraqiya television's transmission was draped yesterday in a black mourning banner. Regular programming aired, but the screen had a black stripe across the upper left hand corner.

Nassar al-Rubaie, head of the parliamentary bloc allied with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, accused the US of lax security that allowed the bomber in.

"The occupation forces are in charge of the security of this area. But no one dares to hold them responsible for this issue," he said.

"The problem of the occupation is not inside or outside this hall, it is for all Iraqi people. Why don't we hold them completely responsible?" he said.

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