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21 November 2004

Iraq's Election Date

Iraqis push ahead with elections
Violence in hotspots like Falluja threatens to disrupt the poll

Iraq has set a date of 30 January 2005 for its first nationwide election since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. The announcement came from the independent Iraqi electoral commission in Baghdad. There had been mounting speculation as to whether elections would be feasible given the continuing violence. On Sunday insurgents ambushed a convoy of National Guards in the flashpoint city of Ramadi, west of Falluja, killing at least eight and wounding 18. Meanwhile, US military officials issued a statement on another incident in Ramadi, in which US soldiers fired on a civilian bus, killing at least seven people and wounding 11. A US Marines spokesman said the bus had failed to stop at a checkpoint, even after warning shots, and the Americans had then opened fire for their own protection. In the northern city of Mosul, US troops found at least two more bodies a day after discovering the corpses of nine men shot in the back of the head. All are believed to be Iraqi soldiers killed by insurgents.

Election plans

Iraqi electoral commission spokesman Farid Ayar said areas beset by violence - including insurgent strongholds such as Falluja and Ramadi - would still participate in the elections. "No Iraqi province will be excluded because the law considers Iraq as one constituency and therefore it is not legal to exclude any province," he said, quoted by the Associated Press. Under the Iraqi timetable for democracy, elections for a transitional parliament needed to be held by the end of January. Voters are still being registered, even though some registration centres closed because of attacks. More than 120 parties are said to have registered.


How free and fair will these elections be?

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