|Jalal Talabani said the passage of the elections law shows Iraq is at ‘a new stage based on respect and dialogue.’|
Officials recommend delay for Iraq elections
Series of attacks are perpetrated around country
BAGHDAD - Iraq’s electoral commission recommended yesterday a 45-day delay in parliamentary elections until Feb. 27, raising concerns that the postponed balloting could complicate the planned withdrawal of US combat troops and bring a possible surge of violence.
A series of attacks struck around the country yesterday as officials tried to set the election timetable, including an explosion outside a Baghdad elementary school that killed 10 people, including six children.
American commanders have noted the chance of increased preelection bloodshed aimed at destabilizing the pro-Western government.
The recommendation for Feb. 27 voting was sent to Iraq’s presidential council, which still must approve it, said Qassim al Aboudi, a senior electoral commission official. Though other dates remained on the table, there was little reason to believe the council would raise objections.
The delay from the original Jan. 16 date is needed to give authorities time to prepare after months of political stalemate that was finally broken with a dramatic vote by lawmakers Sunday just minutes before a midnight deadline on adopting new voting rules.
“The passage of the elections law proves we have entered a new stage based on respect and dialogue, and that the language of dialogue has prevailed over the language of violence and rift,’’ Talabani, the Kurdish representative of the three-member presidential council, said yesterday in a televised address.
At the center of the dispute were demands by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi for a greater political voice for minority Sunni Arabs and changes in the distribution of seats in Iraq’s expanded 325-seat parliament.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Iraqi leaders and lawmakers for overcoming their differences to reach a compromise, new UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said. Ban reaffirmed the FUN’s commitment to provide technical assistance and support to Iran’s Independent High Electoral Commission.
There were concerns the delay could throw snags into withdrawal plans for the US military, which is keeping the bulk of its 120,000 troops in place until the election.
The top American commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, had ordered the bulk of the pullout to begin 60 days after January balloting. It was unclear whether Odierno has adjusted the order with elections now likely to be postponed.
Army Major General John Johnson, a deputy commander in Iraq, did not give details of any preelection contingencies to try to counter possible violence. “With the elections law passed, our main concern continues to be the safety and security of the Iraqi people,’’ he said.
As the political deliberations have dragged on, insurgents have shown their capability of carrying out large-scale attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians.
The latest attack occurred yesterday outside an elementary school in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City, where police and witnesses gave conflicting information about whether the explosion was caused by a bomb, a rocket or an exploding weapons cache.
Among those killed were six children between the ages of 6 and 12, said officials from the police and Interior Ministry. Thirty children were among the 52 people wounded, two hospital officials said.