05/04/2005, 00.00
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Suicide bomber hits Kurdish Party offices in Irbil, 60 feared dead

Kurdish envoy to European Unions says attack is a message to new government; extremists want to destabilise one of the few safe areas of Iraq. Baghdad Patriarch warns against losing hope, saying Pope is "close to us".

Brussels (AsiaNews) – A new attack in northern Iraq took place as discussions over who will get the last cabinet posts are still underway.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a local office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Irbil, northern Iraq. Governor Nawzad Hadi said the number of victims ranged from 45 to 90, but local health authorities spoke of 60 dead, mostly people who had gone to a police recruitment centre housed in the same building as the KDP.

"It is a message to the new government," Jaf Burham, Kurdish regional government envoy to the European Union, told AsiaNews. "The extremists want to destabilise the area under Kurdish control, which is one of the better secured areas".

Burham explains that Irbil is a strategic area and an easy target for attackers. "Different countries like Britain wanted to open a consulate here. It is a city with a good infrastructure, not too far from Baghdad and its international airport. For this reason, several European companies are moving here," he said.

"But local security forces are less experienced with suicide bombers than elsewhere in the country and it is easier to get around checkpoints," he added.

Mgr Emmanuel Delly, Baghdad's Chaldean Patriarch, voiced his pain over this additional episode of violence, but still insisted on the need of not losing hope.

"We must be optimistic in spite of the shadows over us. The Iraqi people will regain the peace   we all need," he said.

Patriarch Delly added he had "confidence in the new government and was certain about the world's and Pope Benedict XVI's prayers for Iraq."

The current wave of violence is taking place as political leaders decide who will be part of the new cabinet.

Yesterday, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the new Shiite Prime Minister, was sworn in but his cabinet was missing seven members, including two Deputy Prime Ministers. Still unoccupied are the ministerial posts of Defence (expected to be a Sunni) and Oil (expected to be a Shiite). Temporarily, the new Prime Minister will be in charge of defence, whilst secular Shiite Ahmad Chalabi is to be the caretaker Oil Minister. Chalabi and Kurdish Roj Shawees are also to be Deputy Prime Ministers. The other ministries with a caretaker nominee are Electrical Power, Industry and Human Rights. But for now the cabinet has 30 members: 16 Shiites, 8 Kurds, 5 Sunnis and 1 Christian. There are also 6 women.

According to Burham, "there are no political disagreements in the government. The problem is that there are more candidates per post and the Premier needs time to decide."

"I am certain that at the next sitting of parliament, an agreement will be worked out," he said.

Burham explains though that Sunni participation is an issue hard to deal with because Sunnis are not united, don't have a single party or leader. "They are different groups and it is hard to choose which one to accommodate." 

The Kurdish envoy said that Iraqis expect much from the al-Jaafari government. But to gain their confidence, the government must take precise actions.
"First of all, it must increase security; then deal with the economy; fight unemployment, especially youth unemployment; and re-establish basic services like water and power where they are not provided".

He hopes that the "different ministries will keenly work together so that Iraq can start working again". (MA)

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