Iraq bombings kill 30 as Kurdish chief takes oath

Bomb attacks in northern Iraq killed at least 30 people and wounded 88 on Tuesday, as the Kurdish autonomous region installed former rebel leader Massoud Barzani as its first president.

The deadliest attack killed at least 20 people in a crowd of civil servants outside a bank in the northern oil city of Kirkuk, police said, adding that 81 had been wounded.

Kirkuk police chief Major General Turhan Yusif said a suicide bomber blew himself up in a queue at Al-Rafidain bank in the city centre.

“Most of the casualties were civil servants lining up outside the bank to receive their monthly pay,” said Colonel Shirzad Abdullah, chief of Rahimao police station.

The bombers struck shortly before Barzani was sworn in as Kurdish president and targeted a bitterly contested city that the Kurds want as capital of an expanded autonomous region.

North of Baghdad, a car bomb killed 10 more Iraqis, including two children, and wounded seven, according to security and hospital sources.

The troops had been called in to reinforce a police station in the town of Kanaan that was under mortar attack, and were hit by a car bomb parked nearby, a police officer said.

In Arbil, Barzani, son of the Kurdish nationalist hero Mullah Mustafa Barzani, took the oath of office as Kurdish president before the 111-member regional assembly.

“I promise to safeguard the accomplishments of Kurdistan and to carry out my duties faithfully,” Barzani told the gathering which included President Jalal Talabani, who headed a rival Kurdish rebel group.

A giant portrait of Mustafa Barzani overlooked the assembly, flanked by Kurdish flags representing the territory he had claimed for Kurds in the middle of the 20th century.

Talabani congratulated his old rival, and said in Arabic before repeating in Kurdish: “Ahead of us is the task of building a unified, pluralistic, democratic and federal Iraq.

“We believe Kurdistan’s democratic experience can serve as a model.” David Satterfield, US deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs told Barzani and the Kurdish lawmakers: “Iraqi Kurdistan has now embarked on Iraq’s first real experience of democracy with elections and new government ... We salute you.

“I repeat President [George W] Bush’s congratulations and best wishes.”

Iraqi court releases damning Saddam video

In Baghdad, the Iraqi court set up to try Saddam Hussein released a video that showed the deposed dictator answering questions.

Judge Raed al-Juhi, a member of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, questioned a bearded, seemingly weary Saddam about the 1982 killing of 143 residents of Dujail, a Shi’ite village northeast of Baghdad.

Saddam, who has been in US custody since his capture in December 2003, is accused of ordering revenge murders after villagers allegedly tried to assassinate him.

He is accused of a litany of other crimes against humanity and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Four Saddam lieutenants, including his cousin Muzahim al-Tikriti, faced questions from an investigating judge about the “Anfal” [spoils] offensive against Kurds, including an attack on the village of Halabja, and the 1991 repression of Shi’ites in southern Iraq, according to separate footage.

‘We will leave when we complete the mission’

Meanwhile, the White House spurned calls for a timetable for pulling out the 130 000 US troops in Iraq, even as a new poll showed almost six in 10 Americans want at least a partial pullout.

“We will leave when we complete the mission,” spokesperson Scott McClellan said a day after a representative in Bush’s Republican party said he would push legislation fixing a firm schedule for a withdrawal.

In Kuala Lumpur, Iraq unveiled a 10-year plan to more than triple oil production to six million barrels per day by 2015, saying it would need $20-billion in foreign investment to do so.

In Manila, recruitment agencies said more than 2 000 Filipinos had slipped into Iraq to work for US military camps despite a Philippine government ban imposed last year.

The New York Times reported that despite denials, United Nations chief Kofi Annan was apparently told of efforts by his son’s employer to win an oil-for-food contract with Iraq in 1998, according to a memo written by a company executive.

And Florence Aubenas, the French journalist released in Iraq Sunday after more than five months in captivity, received perfume and rings from her captors as goodbye presents, her newspaper said. - Sapa-AFP

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