Sunday, January 18, 2004

Shiites demand democracy: ""We should think seriously about the future and for the coming generation, and fashion it to keep our dignity," said Abdel-Madhi Salami, the chief cleric in Karbala, one of two Shiite holy cities in Iraq. "This will happen through serious participation in a peaceful protest, strikes and, as a last resort, possible confrontation with the occupying forces, because they plan to draw up colonial schemes."

"Salami also suggested a way to avoid violence, repeating Sistani's demand for the United Nations to send a fact-finding team to Iraq and judge whether elections can be organized. When Sistani first called for a U.N. visit, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the Governing Council saying elections could not be arranged properly before July 1.

""It was not correct for Kofi Annan to sit in New York and say it," Salami said. "We feel this was all a maneuver. If the commission came, investigated and said there is no way, then an alternative would have to be found." He was evasive about whether Sistani would accept a U.N. judgment. "There is a lack of trust," he said. Salami spoke dismissively of Bremer, with whom Sistani has refused to meet. "It's a feeling we will not get anything from Bremer. My evaluation is, there is no profit in a meeting with him," he said."

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