Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Top cleric spurns U.S. plans; warning of 'another Saddam': "In a statement read to thousands of worshipers Friday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al Sistani said of the American governance plan: ``It is illegitimate because that decision took place between the coalition forces and the Governing Council, and they are an unelected body. . . . The coalition forces are afraid to have direct elections because maybe someone will be in power that they don't agree with.''"

"''If the Americans refuse to give us elections and begin making appointments, they will bring us another Saddam,'' warned Noor Aldin Alwa'adh, a spokesman for Sistani's Baghdad office. Many in the Hawza, a religious body of scholars that issues fatwas, or edicts to be followed as law, share this pessimism. ''The people of Iraq suffered for 30 years under a terrible regime. It is natural for them to be afraid of the future,'' said Ali Sibziwary, a senior member of the Hawza. ''I am afraid that the Americans, absent direct elections, will give the power to such a regime,'' he said. ``It would be just like the Governing Council -- selected by the Americans.''"

"Part of Washington's overriding concern is that an open election might put in office a Shiite Muslim cleric, or a politician beholden to one, who would steer Iraq toward a theocratic state like its neighbor to the east, Iran." - unmentioned in this report is Washington's concern that a democractic government in Iraq could demand the complete pullout of US troops and corporations.

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