Iraqi threatens to disband parliament
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer 1 hour,
54 minutes ago
BAGHDAD - The speaker of Iraq's fragmented parliament
threatened Tuesday to disband the legislature, saying
it is so riddled with distrust it appears unable to
adopt the budget or agree on a law setting a date for
Disbanding parliament would prompt new elections
within 60 days and further undermine Prime Minister
Nouri al-Maliki's shaky government, which is limping
along with nearly half of the 40 Cabinet posts vacant.
The disarray undermines the purpose of last year's
U.S. troop "surge" to bring down violence enough to
allow the Iraqi government and parliament to focus on
measures to reconcile differences among minority
Sunnis and Kurds and the majority Shiites. Violence is
down dramatically, but political progress languishes.
Iraq's constitution allows Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the
hot-tempered speaker and a member of the minority
Sunni faction, to dissolve parliament if one-third of
its members request the move and a majority of
lawmakers approve. Al-Mashhadani said he already had
sufficient backing for the move from five political
blocs, but he refused to name them.
Al-Mashhadani said the Iraqi treasury had already lost
$3 billion by failing to pass the budget before the
end of 2007. He did not explain how the money was
He blamed the lack of a budget on Kurdish politicians
who have refused to back down from a demand that their
regional and semiautonomous government be guaranteed
17 percent of national income.
The 17 percent formula for Kurds was applied to past
budgets, but some Sunni and Shiite lawmakers sought to
lower it to about 14 percent. The argument is that the
Kurdish population is closer to 14 percent of Iraq's
total than 17 percent as Kurds insist. There has been
no census in decades.
Shiite lawmakers walked out of the rare night session
Tuesday when the Kurds refused to drop their demand to
lump the budget vote together with two other contested
measures. The Kurds said they feared being
double-crossed on the budget, which now calls for
restoration of the 17 percent Kurdish share, if
parliamentarians voted on the laws separately.
"We believe the crisis of trust continues to grow and
will affect the work of government. We have to admit
now that the political process has failed and call for
the disbanding of parliament and early elections,"
Sadrist lawmaker Bahaa al-Araji said after the
Earlier in the day, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr's office condemned the kidnapping of two CBS
journalists in the southern city of Basra, while Iraqi
police said an intensive search was under way for the
Separately, a 27-year-old Iraqi journalist who
disappeared after leaving his offices two days ago to
buy some supplies was found shot to death Tuesday in
Iraqi police and witnesses said the kidnapping in
Basra took place Sunday morning when about eight
masked gunmen wielding machine guns stormed the Sultan
Palace Hotel and seized a British reporter and his
CBS News said Monday that two journalists working for
it were missing in Basra, but it did not identify
Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, has seen fierce
fighting between rival Shiite militias as part of a
power struggle in the oil-rich south.
The Sadrists were quick to distance themselves from
the disappearance of the journalists.
"We condemn the kidnappings of journalists, and we
demand the release of the British journalist and the
Iraqi interpreter," Harith al-Edhari, a director of
al-Sadr's office in Basra, told reporters.
An official in the Basra security operations room, who
spoke on condition of anonymity because of security
concerns, said authorities had launched an intensive
search and had arrested a man suspected of involvement
in the kidnapping.
CBS said all efforts were under way to find the
journalists and requested "that others do not
speculate on the identities of those involved" until
more information was available.
Kidnappings of Westerners and Iraqis for political
motives or ransom were common in the past but have
become infrequent recently with a decline in violence.
Since 2004, three journalists Fakher Haider of The
New York Times, as well as James Brandon of Britain
and New York freelancer Steven Vincent have been
abducted in Basra, according to the Committee to
Protect Journalists. Brandon was released, but Vincent
and Haider were murdered, it said.
According to CPJ, at least 51 journalists have been
abducted in Iraq since 2004. The New York-based group
said the majority was released, but 12 were killed.
"Iraq is the most dangerous country in the world for
journalists and the deadliest conflict for the press
in recent history," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon
said. "Journalists face incalculable risks in order to
bring us the news about what is happening on the
CPJ also has recorded at least 126 journalists killed
since the U.S.-led war started in March 2003,
excluding the latest death.
Hisham Michwit Hamdan, 27, disappeared Sunday after he
left the offices of the Young Journalists League to
get notebooks and pens at a market in the central
Baghdad district of Bab al-Mudham district, the
league's chief said.
His bullet-riddled body was found Tuesday in central
Baghdad, according to league chief, Haider al-Moussawi
and police. Hamdan joined the independent organization
when it was established in 2003 as a media watchdog
and had not reported any threats, al-Moussawi added.
He is survived by a wife and two children.