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Iraq poll plans spark new US row


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Iraq poll plans spark new US row

Political opponents of the US government have questioned its ability to ensure that full elections are held in Iraq in January 2005.

Democrats accused Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage of "phoney optimism" after he said voting would be open to all Iraqi citizens.

His remarks appeared to contradict Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr Rumsfeld said on Thursday that the elections might be limited because of the level of violence in Iraq.

Appearing before a Congressional committee, Mr Armitage admitted that any election in Iraq would be "messy".

But he insisted: "We're going to have an election that is free and open - and that has to be open to all citizens."

"And it's got to be our best efforts to get it into troubled areas as well. That's why I think we're going to have these elections in all parts of the country," Mr Armitage said.

He said he had heard nothing of a plan to limit the elections, avoiding the most violent areas.

Mr Armitage was speaking one day after Mr Rumsfeld said it might not be possible to conduct voting in some places targeted by militants.

"So you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," Mr Rumsfeld told senators.

Hostile questioning

The BBC's Daniela Relph in Washington says relations between the Pentagon and the State Department have themselves been messy of late.

Our correspondent says managing a post-war Iraq has seen tensions between sections of the Bush administration, with the State Department usually cautious in public and Mr Rumsfeld often favouring a more direct approach.

Mr Armitage faced hostile questioning from Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee's foreign operations panel.

Congressman Dave Obey from Wisconsin told him it was time to "can the phoney optimism" and added it was going to take "a minor miracle" for the Iraqi elections to take place on time in January.

"This occupation is going to last longer than the Second World War," Mr Obey said.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey from New York said the picture was "bleak".

She accused the Bush administration of misleading Congress and the American people over what could be achieved in Iraq.

She said: "Voter lists haven't actually been created yet. Parties haven't actually been formed."


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Allawi urges world to help Iraq

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has urged world leaders at the United Nations to help build a better future for his conflict-torn country.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Allawi appealed for help to "defeat the forces of terrorism".

He said differences over the US-led war in Iraq should not block future international co-operation.

"We look forward to help from our neighbours and all our friends in the international community," he said.

"Our struggle is your struggle, our victory will be your victory. And if we are defeated, it will be your defeat," Mr Allawi said, adding that extremists had chosen Iraq as their battlefield as they were afraid that democracy would succeed there.

He urged countries to send more troops right away to join the current multinational force, so Iraq could be better equipped to fight the insurgents.

The prime minister also asked that more of the country's multi-billion dollar foreign debt be written off, describing it as an "unjust debt".

He stressed that Iraq was capable of holding the country's first democratic elections scheduled for January, despite continuing violence.

Mr Allawi's appeal at the UN came a day after his speech to a joint session of the US Congress, where he said his country was succeeding in building freedom and democracy.


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