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White House Condemns Killing of Iraqi Governor

The White House is condemning Tuesday's assassination of the governor of Baghdad province. The Bush administration says continuing violence will not delay Iraqi elections later this month.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says President Bush condemns in the strongest terms the killing of Governor Ali al-Haidari, who was shot along with his bodyguards as they drove through a Baghdad neighborhood.

Mr. al-Haidari, who was one of 17 provincial governors, survived a previous attempt on his life several weeks ago.

Noting that a group led by al-Qaida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for the governor's killing, White House spokesman McClellan says the choice for Iraqis is clear: either stand on the side of freedom, democracy and peace or stand on the side of the terrorists.

Mr. McClellan says continuing to move toward this month's scheduled elections is an important part of defeating what he says is the terrorist ambition of returning to a past of tyranny and oppression.

He says there was no discussion of delaying those elections during a Monday telephone call between President Bush and Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

"We fully support the independent Iraqi Election Commission timetable of January 30 for holding those elections,” he said.  “It is important that we continue to move forward on all fronts, to help the Iraqi people realize a better future, a future that stands in stark contrast to the one of the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein."

Mr. McClellan says President Bush and Prime Minister Allawi discussed security surrounding the vote and how U.S. troops can continue working with Iraqi forces to make sure the country is as secure as possible so the election goes forward.

Mr. McClellan says Prime Minister Allawi's administration is continuing to work with Sunni leaders to ensure widespread participation in the vote.

"They are moving forward on reaching out to areas where there is a heavy population of Sunnis to encourage as broad a participation in that segment of society as well. We want to see all parts of Iraq participate to the fullest extent possible in these elections," he added.

Sunnis are a minority in Iraq, and many Sunni leaders say the country is not secure enough to hold the vote. One Sunni party has already announced a boycott and several Sunni groups have said they want the balloting postponed because of security concerns.

Violence continues ahead of the January 30 vote. In a separate attack, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden truck into a police checkpoint near Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone, killing at least 10 people and wounding 60 others.

Three American soldiers were killed and two wounded in a different bomb attack in Baghdad. Elsewhere, another U.S. soldier and a Marine were also killed.

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