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Al-Qaida in Iraq Says Algerian Diplomats Sentenced to Death

Al-Qaida in Iraq has posted a video of two men, believed to be Algerian diplomats kidnapped last Thursday. The group says the pair has been sentenced to death and would soon be killed.

A video, posted on an Internet website, shows two blindfolded men who identify themselves as Ali Belaroussi and Izzedine Belkadi.

Last Thursday gunmen seized Ali Belaroussi, Algeria's top envoy to Iraq, and his aide in a bold, daytime assault in Baghdad. The al-Qaida terrorist group in Iraq, led by Sunni militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for that attack and three others on top diplomats from Muslim countries in recent weeks.

The terrorist group says the two Algerian diplomats have been sentenced to death for working as representatives of a government that recognized Iraq's democratically elected government.

The statement's authenticity has not been verified, but al-Qaida has condemned democracy as going against Islam and has warned Muslim nations not to establish diplomatic ties with Baghdad.

It is not known whether the sentences against the Algerians have been carried out. Algerian officials confirmed Monday that the mission's last remaining diplomat has left Baghdad to return to Algiers.

On July 7, al-Qaida in Iraq said it had executed the head of Egypt's mission in Baghdad, Ihab al-Sherif, who was kidnapped by gunmen two days earlier. But the envoy's body has not been found.

Iraqi and U.S. officials believe the kidnappings and threats are part of an attempt by al-Qaida to isolate the interim Iraqi government from other Muslim countries, as Iraq forges ahead with plans to draft a constitution and create a broad-based, permanent government by the end of the year.

In a separate posting on the Internet, the terrorists warned the country's Sunni Arabs that they would become targets of attacks if they took part in the political process.

The threat is similar to those issued against the community before elections in January. Fearing attacks and heeding boycott calls by hard-line Sunni clerics, most Sunni Arabs stayed away from the polls, leaving the religious minority severely under-represented in government.

A spokesman for the Sunni Iraqi Islamic political party, Ammar Wajeeh, acknowledges that Iraqi Sunnis, feeling angry and disenfranchised after the fall of fellow Sunni Saddam Hussein, violently resisted U.S.-backed plans to create a new, democratic government. But Mr. Wajeeh says most Sunni Arabs are now convinced that boycotting the elections was a mistake because it helped Shi'ite and Kurds win control of the new government.

He says Sunni leaders are trying to make their followers understand that the al-Qaida in Iraq group, whose membership is made up mostly of foreign Arab extremists, should not be dictating Iraq's political future.

"We try to isolate the Iraqi people from these groups who come from outside," said Mr. Wajeeh. "I think if the Iraqi people share in the political process, this will lessen their number and this will reduce their acceptance. You know we have a problem in the western governorates, they accept them, sometimes hide them in their houses. We want these things to be resolved because they really make a real problem for us."

In Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and President Jalal Talabani held talks with Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka.

Mr. Belka pledged to keep Poland's more than 14-hundred troops in Iraq until early next year, when it is due to begin a gradual withdrawal. A small military contingent is scheduled to stay in Iraq to help train Iraqi security forces.

Poland has the third-largest military contingent in the U.S.-led coalition.