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Iraqi Parliament Discusses Security, Procedural Matters

Iraq's parliament met Sunday for the fifth time since its inauguration last month to discuss security and procedural matters. The session was held as kidnappers reportedly seized an employee of the Pakistani Embassy.

Members of Iraq's new National Assembly discussed procedural questions, such as its meeting schedule, a new Iraqi flag, and reports of police harassment of parliament members.

Parliament Speaker Hajem al-Hassani suggested security forces relax the draconian measures put in force when parliament meets. The measures, which include closing many streets and bridges around the fortified Green Zone, make the streets in central Baghdad almost impassable for most of the day.

But Interim Minister of State for Security Qassim Dawoud said the measures are necessary.

He said the assembly is being targeted by terrorists, and, as a result, security forces must focus on protecting parliament members.

Speaker Hajem al-Hassani suggested lawmakers move as quickly as possible to their new headquarters, located nearby, but outside the Green Zone. The headquarters are to be in the Defense Ministry building, which housed the Iraqi parliament under the monarchy, during the first half of the last century.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani government issued a statement confirming that an employee of its embassy in Baghdad was kidnapped Saturday, after attending evening prayers. The statement said Malik Mohammed Javed had contacted the embassy to report he was being held, but was un-harmed. A previously unknown group claimed responsibility.

More than 100 foreigners, and an estimated 5,000 Iraqis, have been kidnapped in the past year, some by groups demanding the departure of foreigners from Iraq, others by criminals seeking ransom. Many have been released, but a considerable number have been murdered.

In addition, the Iraqi military said, one Iraqi soldier was killed and two wounded Sunday by a roadside bomb outside the northern city of Kirkuk. And the U.S. military said one of its soldiers was wounded by a car bomb in Bakouba, 60 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital.