‘No daylight’ between UK, US on Iraq polls: Rumsfeld
* CPA denies plan to transfer sovereignty to Governing Council
WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he sees “no daylight” in US and British positions over direct elections in Iraq, but said the question was whether they could be held by this summer.
Mr Rumsfeld, who briefed members of the Senate behind closed doors, was asked afterwards by reporters about a British newspaper report that British Foreign Minister Jack Straw was pressing for direct elections in Iraq and Washington was inclined to go along.
“The US has always been for direct elections. The only question was when and how fast could they be done,” he said, adding that direct elections would be held on Iraq’s new constitution in any event.
Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al Sistani and coalition officials signalled flexibility on holding early elections, with both sides suggesting they’ll follow any UN recommendation on whether a direct vote is feasible, Iraqi and Western officials said.
11 killed: Two US soldiers were killed near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, in a mortar attack, the US military said. “Last evening at approximately 6:30pm two 4th Infantry Division soldiers were killed and one critically wounded in a mortar attack at a forward base in Baquba,” 4ID spokesman Major Josslyn Aberle said. Militants in a car fired AK-47 assault rifles and tossed a grenade at a police checkpoint near Fallujah on Thursday, killing three policemen. Four Iraqi laundresses were killed when assailants raked their minibus with gunfire west of Baghdad. A British soldier was killed in an automobile accident on Wednesday in Al Amarah.
Shiite protests: Three days of Shiite protests struck fear in the hearts of Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis on Thursday, as US special envoy James Baker persuaded Riyadh to scrap a “substantial” reduction of Iraq’s bruising debt. —Agencies