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Iraqi threatens to disband parliament

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080212/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq Iraqi threatens to disband parliament By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 54 minutes
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080212/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq

      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
      provincial elections.

      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
      lost.

      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
      fractious session.

      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
      men.

      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
      central Baghdad.

      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
      Iraqi interpreter.

      CBS News said Monday that two journalists working for
      it were missing in Basra, but it did not identify
      them.

      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
      ground there."

      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.
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