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Death squads threaten Iraq’s politics

By Peter Graff

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s political process could collapse if sectarian death squads are not reined in, a Sunni political leader said on Thursday, a day after 60 corpses were found in the capital.

Two car bombs struck Baghdad early on Thursday, ki

lling 10, a day after bombers killed at least 22 people in the capital and police discovered scores of bodies, bound, tortured, shot and dumped in both Sunni and Shi’ite parts of the city.

“If these barbarian acts do not stop, certainly it will effect the reconciliation plan,” Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the biggest Sunni Arab group in parliament, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

A car bomb struck a police patrol outside an orphanage near the busy Karrada district of central Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 26. Another, outside a photography studio in the northwest of the city, killed one and wounded 13.

In Diwaniya, south of the capital where Shi’ite militia and U.S.-backed Iraqi forces fought a bloody battle two weeks ago, U.S. troops raided a local headquarters of followers of radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. A Reuters reporter at the scene saw several people hurt by subsequent disturbances.

One man was killed and 10 wounded, hospital sources said.

The escalating violence has piled political pressure on U.S. President George W. Bush, facing congressional elections in November. Bush has said in a series of speeches that success in Iraq is key to a global struggle against Islamic militants.

Some questioned the White House’s message after a disclosure this week that a classified military assessment said al Qaeda was now the dominant political force in Iraq’s biggest province Anbar, where the government and U.S. Marines hold little sway.

The Marines’ commander said he had enough troops to train Iraqis, but not enough to defeat the insurgents. White House spokesman Tony Snow said training Iraqis was the goal.

“The key in Iraq is not for the United States to go in and subdue every bad guy in the country,” Snow said. “That would mean that we have to occupy Iraq forever.”

Democrats in Washington have focused their ire on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calling for him to quit. Bush’s Republican allies in congress have also expressed concern.

Republican congressman Christopher Shays said at a hearing on Iraq U.S. decisions had made Iraq’s efforts to build a government and establish security more difficult:

“We attacked them. We disbanded their army, their police and their border patrol, and left them with no security.”


U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said most Middle East leaders had told him they believe the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a “real disaster” for the region, but he said they were divided over whether the Americans should pull out now, or stay.

“The U.S. has found itself in a position where it cannot stay and it cannot leave,” Annan told a news conference in New York. “I believe, if it has to leave, the timing has to be optimum and it has to be arranged in such a way that it does not lead to even greater disruption or violence in the region.”

Key to Washington’s plan to withdraw is establishing a government that would draw in minority Sunnis, who rose up after being driven from power when U.S. troops toppled Saddam Hussein.

Sunni leaders say the Shi’ite-led government has turned a blind eye to Shi’ite death squads and corrupt militia that control the police. They accuse Shi’ites and Kurds of trying to seize Iraq’s oil wealth by splitting the country into regions.

Parliamentary leaders met on Wednesday but failed to break deadlock over the issue of federalism. Dulaimi said another meeting set for Saturday would attempt to end the dispute ahead of a debate in parliament on the issue scheduled for Tuesday. — Reuter

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