RealNews

Shiites March for Elections in Iraq

Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims marched through Baghdad on Monday in the largest protest since the occupation of Iraq began 10 months ago, demanding that U.S. authorities organize direct elections to choose a new government. The peaceful demonstration sent, in numbers and message, a clear signal that the demands of Iraq’s emboldened Shiite majority could not be ignored by U.S. and Iraqi officials, who met Monday with Secretary General Kofi Annan and other U.N. leaders in New York to seek a greater U.N. role in the troubled plan to transfer power to Iraqis by this summer. Under the plan unveiled in November, the U.S. administration in Iraq wants to hold 18 regional caucuses across the country in May that would choose a transitional assembly. That assembly would select a provisional government that would take power by June 30, formally ending the U.S. occupation. But the country’s leading Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has insisted on direct, nationwide elections — a process that U.S. officials say would be impossible to organize quickly and unpredictable in its outcome. Full Story

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