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Iraqis Have Little Sympathy for US Power Blackout Sufferers - 2003-08-16


Iraqis have little sympathy for people in parts of the United States and Canada who spent more than a day without electricity following a massive power outage. In Iraq, the electricity is off more often than it is on. The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, has appealed for patience in Iraq, amid efforts to increase electricity production.

Iraqis are all too familiar with the problems of living without electricity. Kawkeb Hussein is a pharmacist in Baghdad. She says the coalition keeps promising electricity, but not delivering it.

"The Americans say that this week, next week, the electricity will be okay," she said. "Bremer says that 25 July the electricity will be very good. And there is nothing. So let the Americans suffer for just a few hours to know how we are feeling."

Nearly 50 million people in the United States and Canada spent more than 29 hours without power starting Thursday evening in the worst blackout in North American history.

The Iraqi power grid was badly damaged in the war, and most areas of the country only receive power for a few hours a day. Sabotage and outdated equipment have compounded the problem, along with shortages of fuel for generators. The U.S. military has been working on the power grid but says it will take months and will cost billions of dollars, before a regular supply can be guaranteed.

Many Iraqis are hoping the experience in North America will provide lessons that can be applied in their country. Ahmad Al Ameen who runs a stationery store in Baghdad, drew conclusions of his own.

"Electricity is very important for everybody," he said. "We need it. So, if you can solve the problem there, you can solve it here."

The hardest part for most people in Baghdad and throughout the country has been living through the blistering summer heat with no power. Temperatures in recent weeks have reached well over 50 degrees Celsius. Many Iraqis and several U.S. soldiers have died from heat exhaustion.

While politicians in the United States and Canada debate the cause of the North American blackout, at least one Iraqi, Abdul Saheb Dhamad, has his own ideas about who is to blame for electricity cuts everywhere.

"What have we done before to suffer this bad situation now? It's a curse from God," he said.

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