Saturday, January 22, 2005

U.S,Britain discuss Iraq Pullout.

BAGHDAD, January 22 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – The US and main war ally Britain are engaged in talks on detailed Iraq withdrawal plans at the earliest date possible, with most Americans showing low expectations about the Iraqi general elections.

Classified memos are circulating in Washington , Baghdad and London on pullout scenarios after the January 30 polls, The Guardian reported on Saturday, January 22, quoting a British Foreign Office source.

“Of course, we think about leaving Iraq . There is no point in staying there. There are continually plans in Whitehall , Washington and Baghdad to withdraw when we can.”

The source, however, said there was yet no document defining the forces withdrawal by July 2005 or any other date.

“That would be a mug's game. There are documents all over the place with different scenarios. Until recently, the British government was working to a rough target date of June next year but that appears to have been abandoned as over-optimistic.”

A British defense source earlier stressed that it would take until the end of the year to withdraw forces and military equipment even if a decision to pull out was taken today.

Britain has about 9,000 troops stationed in southern Iraq , forming a small fraction of the US-led occupation forces.

Low Expectations

Chalabi, a one-time Pentagon protégé would be arrested after `Eid holiday.(Reuters)

Despite continued arguments by high-level Bush administration officials that the January elections would further stabilize the volatile situation in war-torn Iraq , a recent poll showed that most Americans have low expectations about the vote.

Thirty-four percent of the Americans said violence would continue in Iraq even after the polls, 25 percent said things would get even worse while only 34 percent said security would improve, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

The poll, by Harris Interactive, surveyed 2,209 American citizens on January 11-16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

Several US analysts and officials predicted on Tuesday, January 11, the controversial polls to lead to more chaos and instability.

Iraqi voters are to choose a 275-member assembly, which will be charged with writing a permanent constitution.

If adopted in a referendum later this year, the constitution would form the legal basis for another general elections to be held by December, 2005.

Representatives of several Iraqi parties and leading political figures have been campaigning for a six-month delay of the vote over the increasing deteriorating security conditions.

The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), the highest religious authority in Iraq , pressed for a boycott of the elections, citing the impossibility of organizing fair elections held under current deteriorating conditions.

Also, the Islamic Party, a major Sunni political player, recently backtracked on its earlier decision to vie, dealing a huge blow to the process.

Controversial Chalabi

In another development, interim Defense Minister Hazim al-Shaalan told Aljazeera news channel that Ahmad Chalabi, one-time Pentagon protégé in the run up to Iraq invasion and leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), would be arrested after `Eid Al Adha holiday.

“We will arrest him and hand him over to Interpol. We will arrest him based on facts that he wanted to malign the reputation of the defense ministry and defense minister,” he said.

“Our measures will start after `Eid,” announced the minister.

Shaalan told the London-based Arabic-speaking daily Asharq al-Awsat on Friday, January 21, the arrest was linked to charges Chalabi leveled against him of embezzling $500 million from the defense ministry and of links to the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.

Chalabi is also accused of killing thousands of opposition figures in the Iraqi city of Arbil and driving a wedge between the two main Kurdish parties; the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Shaalan said.

An arrest warrant was issued by an Iraqi investigating magistrate against Chalabi lat August on charges of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars, which were removed from circulation after the ouster of Saddam's regime.

In 2003, the US military flew Chalabi from exile into Iraq at the head of a militia dubbed the “Free Iraqi Forces”.

But he lost favor in Washington after accusations from senior US officials of passing on classified US intelligence to Iran .

Chalabi's intelligence reports bolstered Washington 's pre-war claims that Saddam stockpiled weapons of mass destruction, a charge used to justify military action that has so far proven to be ungrounded.

Since his break with the United States and the interim government, Chalabi has been playing up his credentials as an independent who stood up to the occupation authorities.
source Islam online www.islamonline.org