Friday, December 30, 2005

International observers to come to Iraq, the oil minister ousted!

In what‘s supposed to be a “waiting day” in Iraq since it’s Friday, events and developments just kept surfacing and vacation day was just as eventful as any other day of the week.

Baghdad now is suffering from a power siege that began after workers in one of Iraq’s largest refineries-the Baiji oil refinery-came under threats from terrorists who said they’d kill tanker drivers who transport oil products to the rest of the country. The oil ministry responded by shutting down the refinery as a measure to avoid loss in lives. This caused Baghdad to suffer from yet a new fuel and electricity shortage because the refinery supplies many power plants in the country. The electricity outages are most severe in the western part of Baghdad where residents are getting a little more than 6 hours/day.

In a related development, Ahmed al-Chalabi has been asked to run the oil ministry after the minister Mohammed Bahr al-Iloom was forced to take a whole month off!
Bahr al-Iloom said in an interview for al-Hurra that he was planning to submit his resignation after the government didn’t listen to his suggestion for a gradual increase in fuel prices instead of the sudden increase that was activated by the government days ago. Yet Bahr al-Iloom said he “was surprised by the government’s decision to give me an obligatory vacation for a whole month”.
It’s worth mentioning that Chalabi is the head of the “energy committee” in the cabinet which apparently qualified him to replace the overthrown minister and makes one think that Chalabi will be the UIA’s candidate for the same post in the new government. I don’t want to talk about Chalabi Now but from what we see it seems that although Chalabi separated from the UIA, he is still considered as a loyal ally for the religious Shia parties.

Moving on to pure political stuff, the parties lined up under Maram welcomed the decision of an international investigation team to come to Iraq to evaluate the election process and the fraud claims made by the Sunni and the secular Shia parties.
A spokesman of Maram said the investigators are invited to talk to the people in Maram because “that would help them know in what manner the fraud took place…looking at papers and boxes will reveal almost nothing but knowing the background and the methods used in fraud can reveal the truth and that’s what we in Maram can give to the investigators”.
Mudhaffar al-Aani said they hope in Maram to see an investigation team that has the power to make decisions and not only write memorandums.

From their end, Aadil al-Lami the chief of the election commission said they “welcome the investigation team and will cooperate with them. They are free to talk to whomever they want but on one condition that they do not interfere with the commission’s independence…”

In Doukan/Sulaymanya, the talks between the UIA and the Kurdish alliance are still underway but seem to be reaching an end.
And from the statements coming from Talabani and al-Hakeem and the smiles on their faces it looks like they have reached some sort of an agreement. Al-Hakeem spoke warmly about the “historic relations between the two parties”.
Al-Hakeem defended federalism again and emphasized that federalism will strengthen the unity of Iraq instead of breaking its unity.

He has also denied the claims about a breakup between the major components of the UIA; it is known that the Sadrists and the Dawa Party did not send their envoys with al-Hakeem to Sulaymaniya and moreover, the Dawa party has officially announced nominating Jafari for PM but al-Hakeem still denies the presence of any conflict within the UIA.
Waledd al-Hilli from the Dawa Party said today that they in the UIA will resort to a voting process to determine the UIA’s candidate for the PM post which means that the UIA has been so deeply involved in talks with other parties that they didn’t have enough time to resolve their own internal differences.

In the same press conference, Jalal Talabiani attacked the rejecters of the election results and he addressed them by the name; answering a question about Salih al-Mutlaq, Talabani said “it is us who have conditions that al-Mutlaq must fulfill before he can join the government; we cannot accept those who join the terrorists at night and stand on our side in the morning” and commenting on Allawi’s position, Talabani said “we hope that Mr. Allawi goes back to his flexible attitude we used to see from him…” in general, Talabani said that anyone who wants to be part of the government must show a clear position regarding two crucial points; fighting terror and deba’athification.

The final statement of today’s Sulaymaniya meetings reflected an agreement that each party’s role in the government shall be decided by accordance and the principles of preserving national unity rather than by the results of the elections.

That’s all for today.

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