Leading clerics denounce Iraq election

Iraq’s leading Sunni Muslim clerics said on Wednesday the landmark elections lack legitimacy because large numbers of Sunnis did not participate in the balloting—which the clerics had asked them to boycott.

Meanwhile, emboldened by the elections, which United States and Iraqi authorities cited as a victory for democracy, the police chief in Mosul has demanded that insurgents hand over weapons within two weeks or he would “wipe out” anyone giving them shelter.

Large numbers of majority Shi’ite Muslims and Kurds took part in Sunday’s election for a new National Assembly and regional parliaments. Although no results or turnout figures have been released, US officials say turnout appeared much lower in Sunni areas where the insurgency is strongest.

In its first statement since the balloting, the Association of Muslim Scholars said the balloting lacked legitimacy because of low Sunni participation. The association called months ago on Sunnis to shun the polls because of the presence of US and other foreign troops.

Iraqi officials acknowledge voting problems, including a ballot shortage in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, which have substantial Sunni populations.

With many Sunnis having stayed away, a ticket endorsed by the Shi’ite clergy is expected to gain the biggest number of seats in the 275-member National Assembly, followed by the Kurds and a list headed by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shi’ite.

In its statement, the association said the election “lacks legitimacy because a large portion of these people who represent many spectra have boycotted it”.
As a result, the association said the new leadership lacks a mandate to draft a new Constitution and should be considered a temporary administration.

“We make it clear to the United Nations and the international community that they should not get involved in granting this election legitimacy because such a move will open the gates of evil,” the statement said.

“We are going to respect the choice of those who voted and we will consider the new government—if all the parties participating in the political process agree on it—as a transitional government with limited powers.”

Handover of weapons

In Mosul, police General Mohammed Ahmed al-Jubouri offered amnesty to insurgents who hand over their weapons within two weeks, but promised tough action if they do not.

In an interview with the provincial television station, al-Jubouri threatened “to wipe out any village that would hide weapons after the two-week period and shell any safe haven for the insurgents”.

Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, has been tense since insurgents rose up in November in support of rebels under siege in Fallujah, west of Baghdad. The entire 5 000-member police force deserted before US and Iraqi troops regained control.

Meanwhile, insurgents blew up an oil pipeline on Wednesday near the central city of Samarra, police said. The pipeline serves domestic power stations in Baghdad and Beiji and does not affect exports.

An Iraqi motorist was shot dead on the main desert highway west of Baghdad on Wednesday. A witnesses claimed US troops opened fire when vehicle when it tried to overtake an American military convoy.

US vehicles have often been targeted by car bombers who ram convoys.

A US army spokesperson said he had no immediate information on the shooting.

Elsewhere, Iraq’s ambassador to the UN on Tuesday urged the world body to stop using the country’s oil revenue to pay compensation to Kuwaiti victims of the 1991 Gulf War and the salaries of UN weapons inspectors.

The payments were mandated under resolutions approved by the UN Security Council after a US-led coalition drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991.

“I think it’s generally acknowledged that Iraq now does not pose such a threat, and does not in its present form have any weapons of mass destruction,” ambassador Samir Sumaidaie said. “And, therefore, to continue to fund a bureaucracy to do what, to just continue to say every day that they have found nothing?”—Sapa-AP

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