Iraq Arabic News Summary, February 15, 2008

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Iraq Arabic News Summary, February 15, 2008

Summarized in English by Nathaniel Rabkin

Parliament Passes Laws on Amnesty, Provinces, and Budget in a Special Evening Session; Deputy Speaker: “a Wedding for Parliament”

In an extraordinary session held Wednesday night, Iraq’s Parliament approved the Budget for 2008, a law on provincial governments, and an amnesty for many prisoners held in Iraqi jails. The breakthrough came just before Parliament breaks for its winter recess.

In order to secure the necessary support for the three bills, Parliamentary leaders had to present them as a package. After consulting with legal experts, they chose to present each bill for a separate vote, but to make the validity of each law dependent on the passage of the other two. An unknown number of parliamentarians, many but not all of them from the Sadrist Bloc and the Fadila party, refused to participate in the vote in protest of this unusual procedure.

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Khalid al-Attiya, called the event “a wedding for Parliament.” Adnan al-Dulaymi, the Sunni politician who leads the Iraqi Accord Front, said that “today is one of the best of days, because we were able to vote on the most important projects which had previously been subject to great dispute.”

The budget bill had been held up by a dispute with Kurdish leaders about the proportion of the budget which they will receive. The new law gives the Kurdish Autonomous Region the right to dispose of 17% of the 2008 Iraqi budget, but requires that the Kurdish share of the 2009 budget be determined based on a census to be conducted this year.

The new law on provinces allows for provincial governors to be removed in two ways: Parliament can vote to remove a governor after receiving a request from the Prime Minister to do so, or a governor can be removed by a vote of the Provincial Council of his province. The law also gives provincial governments greater latitude in spending federal money on development and public works projects.

Details on the new amnesty law were not immediatly available. However, the bill is said to include exceptions for crimes of terrorism, murder, and corruption.
Sources:
Al-Sabaah, “Budget, Elections, and Amnesty Laws passed in a ‘Parliamentary Wedding.’” February 14th.
Hasan Fahas and Fadil Rashad, al-Hayat. “The Iraqi Parliament Passes Three Laws Which Had Formed an Obstacle to National Reconciliation; Iranian-American Discussions To Begin in Baghdad Tomorrow as Sadr Studies in Qom, Preparing to Announce Himself as a Marja.” February 14

Muqtada al-Sadr Said to Be Studying in Iran to Become an Ayatollah; Ahmadinejad to Visit Iraq

Muqtada al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s most influential Shi’ite political leaders, is said to be studying religious texts in the hopes of being recognized as a Shi’ite religious authority or Marja. A story in London’s al-Hayat newspaper based on anonymous sources says that Muqtada is studying in the Iranian city of Qom with Kazim al-Haeri, an Iraqi expatriate who was a student of Muqtada’s father, Ayatollah Sadiq al-Sadr. Al-Hayat’s source said that Sadr would complete his studies and declare himself a Marja sometime this year.

Last December a Sadr spokesman named Asma al-Musawi publicly announced that Sadr was studying to become a Marja, or a Shi’ite cleric capable of issuing religious rulings (fatwas). At that time, al-Hayat reported that Sadr was studying in Najaf with Ayatollah Ishaq al-Fayadh, one of the four widely recognized Marjas of Najaf.

In other news, an Iranian source told al-Hayat that Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad intends to visit Iraq for two days in the first week of March. His visit will include the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, where he will meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most respected Shi’ite cleric in Iraq. According to the source, Ahmadinejad had wanted to visit the cities of Samarra and Basra as well, but Iraqi authorities rejected this plan on security grounds.

The news of Ahmadinejad’s visit was pubished Thursday on the eve of discussions to be held in Baghdad between US and Iranian officials about the situation in Iraq. However, Radio Sawa, the US-sponsored Arabic radio station, quoted US and Iraqi officials on Friday as saying that Iranian officials had asked to delay the meeting.

According to Iraqi Foreign Ministry official Labid Abbawi, the Iranian officials responsible for the meeting received orders from above asking that it be postponed. Abbawi speculated that the postponement was related to the assassination of Lebanese Hizbullah leader Imad Mugniyeh in Damascus earlier this week.

Source:
Hasan Fahas and Fadil Rashad, al-Hayat. “The Iraqi Parliament Passes Three Laws Which Had Formed an Obstacle to National Reconciliation; Iranian-American Discussions To Begin in Baghdad Tomorrow as Sadr Studies in Qom, Preparing to Announce Himself as a Marja.” February 14
Radio Sawa, “Abbawi: Mugniyeh’s Assassination Could be Behind Tehran’s Decision to Delay Talks With the Americans.” February 14
http://www.radiosawa.com/arabic_news.aspx?id=2011275&cid=24

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