Sistanis Office Calls On Aides To

Sistani’s Office Calls on Aides to Encourage Voting
Kurdish Troops to Guard Polling Stations?

Al-Hayat: The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called on supporters and aides of the Shiite religious authority in all Iraqi provinces and cities to encourage the people to participate in the elections scheduled for the end of January, and to offer all help and assistance to the voters in casting their ballots in complete freedom. The office also asked, during a large meeting held in Najaf with the aides and supporters mentioned above, that they make citizens aware of the need for “self discipline and avoidance of the sectarian turmoil that the enemy is attempting to foment.”

Iraqi minister for national security affairs, Qasim Da’ud, said that it was no longer plausible that the elections might be postponed, since, he said, Iraqis understood that the elections were the “legitimate gate through which the democratic process might be entered.” He maintained in an interview with al-Hayat that the security situation was improving, and gave as proof that the guerrillas were now specifically targetting the electoral process.

A Kurdish party official, Faraj al-Haydari, told the newspaper that Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan’s recent visit to Salahuddin Province was for the purpose of exploring the possibility that Kurdish forces might be used to guard the oil pipelines and to provide security to polling stations in late January.

The use of Kurdish Peshmerga or paramilitaries to guard polling stations might work in some parts of the country. But in Kirkuk, where Turkmen and Arabs contest Kurdish control of the city, and where calls for postponement of municipal elections are strident, it could actually cause more trouble.

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