09/20/2004, 00.00
iraq
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Elections in January "major blow" against terrorists, Iraqi Prime minister says

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Iraqi prime minister insisted that the raging insurgency - which has claimed 300 lives in the last week alone and resulted in a wave of kidnappings - will not delay January elections, promising the vote will strike a "major blow" against the violent opposition. "January next, I think, is going to be a major blow to terrorists and insurgents," said Allawi, who spoke with reporters after a meeting with British leader Tony Blair in London. "We are adamant that democracy is going to prevail, is going to win in Iraq." Interim government was determined "to stick to the timetable of the elections," which are due by Jan. 31, Allawi said.

British Prime minister Tony Blair said Iraq had become the "crucible" in the battle against global terrorism. With Mr Allawi standing by his side, Mr Blair said the West should "realize that the struggle of the prime minister and the Iraqi people, for liberty and democracy and stability, is actually our struggle too". The US and the UK would "see it through until it is finished - until it finishes in victory, not of America or Britain or the West but the victory of the Iraqi people," he said." Mr Blair said. "Now is not the time for the international community to divide or disagree but to come together" ha said. "Whatever the disagreements about the first conflict in Iraq to remove Saddam, in this conflict now taking place in Iraq, this is the crucible in which the future of this global terrorism will be decided. If we succeed in Iraq that's a huge blow to this form of terrorism. If we don't, then of course it's very serious".

Meanwhile, a grisly videotape posted on a Web site Sunday showed the beheading of three hostages believed to be Iraqi Kurds accused by militants of cooperating with U.S. forces. The decapitated bodies of the three slain Kurdish hostages were found on a road near the northern city of Mosul, said Sarkawt Hassan, security chief in the Kurdish town of Sulaimaniyah. He said the three were members of the peshmerga militia of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The videotape, posted Sunday on a site known for its Islamic militant content, shows three young men, two of whom hold up identity cards. Seconds later, each has his throat slit and his head placed on the back of his body. The Ansar al-Sunna Army - a Sunni militant group that said it killed 12 Nepalese hostages in August and carried out Feb. 1 suicide attacks against Kurdish political parties that killed 109 people - claimed responsibility for the beheadings in a statement with the video. It said the three were KDP members snatched as they were transporting military vehicles to a base in Taji, 15 miles north of Baghdad. The group said it was targeting Iraqi Kurdish parties because they have "sworn allegiance to the crusaders and fought and are still fighting Islam and its people."

A video in Arabic tv claims 18 captured Iraqi soldiers would be killed unless detained al-Sadr aide Hazem al-A'araji, aide of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was freed in 48 hours.

More than 135 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq, some for lucrative ransoms, and many have been executed.

At least eight other Westerners are being held hostage here, including an Iraqi-American man, two female Italian aid workers, two French reporters, one English and two American workers. T

Three Lebanon and their Iraqi driver were abducted by gunmen on the Baghdad-Fallujah highway Friday night.

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