01/04/2005, 00.00
IRAQ
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Violence escalates as elections approach

Governor of Baghdad is killed. Car bomb kills ten at Iraqi police post. Foreign fighters continue crossing into Iraq from Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The wave of violence goes on unabated in Iraq. This morning in the capital, the Governor of Baghdad, Ali al-Haidiri, was killed in roadside ambush.

More blood was spilled when 10 people were killed and 60 injured when a suicide bomber rammed a fuel truck into a checkpoint near the Green Zone, the heavily fortified government and diplomatic compound.

In the last few days, violence has reached a new crescendo as January 30 elections approach so much so that most Iraqi Sunnis have decided to sit it out. Insurgents are intimidating them when they try to register to vote and threatening voter registration officials in Sunni strongholds.

Shiite opponents say instead the Sunnis—30 per cent of the electorate—are staying away to save face in the January 30 election, which they are likely to lose to majority Shi'ite parties.

Whatever the reason, there are neither voter registration centres nor registered voters in the Sunni strongholds of Fallujah and Ramadi, according to the Independent Electoral Commission.

Last week, Islamic Party candidates formally withdrew from the election, saying it had become too violent for their participation.

However, Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the US government have refused to delay the election, arguing that it would be a victory for terrorism and that most Iraqis are eager to vote.

In the meantime, US military sources in Basrah claim that terrorists al-Qaeda continue to infiltrate into Iraq from Saudi Arabia. (DS)

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