Iraq and the US still differ over SOFA; Iraqi parliament passes law for provincial elections; More than 32 people killed and 100 injured in Baghdad bombing
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  • Iraq’s Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi stated that Baghdad and Washington were still in disagreement over some articles of the security deal. al-Hashemi emphasized that his country would only seek a deal which respects Iraq’s dignity and sovereignty. Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari meanwhile stated that if an agreement was not reached, then the alternative would be to go to the UN Security Council for an extension of the mandate. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in a meeting in New York that he expected the situation in Iraq to improve further.

    The Iraqi parliament meanwhile passed a law paving the way for provincial elections, after months of wrangling. As a compromise, parliament has agreed to deal separately with the issue of Kirkuk, so that elections can go ahead in other parts of the country. Agreement over the drafting of the laws has been seen as a key part of political reform in Iraq. The law must now go before the country's three-man presidency council, headed by President Jalal Talabani. Provincial elections are part of an American-backed plan to reconcile rival groups, particularly the Sunnis, who boycotted the last round of provincial elections in 2005. Control of Kirkuk is disputed between Iraqi Arabs, Kurds and ethnic Turkmen, and disagreements over how to treat the city held up debate in parliament. Parliament adopted a draft provincial election law in July 2008, despite a boycott by Kurdish and some Shia Muslim MPs, but it was rejected by the presidential council. Polls had been scheduled for October this year, but were cancelled after MPs failed to reach an agreement. Parliament has now set a deadline of January 31, 2009 for elections to be held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces1.

    In continuing violence, a bomb hidden under a pile of trash killed five people near the northern city of Mosul, where US-Iraqi military operations aimed at routing insurgents were going on. Baghdad also faced more violence with at least three civilians getting killed in two separate bombings2. Death toll from an ambush against Iraqi police in the restive province of Diyala rose to 35. Gunmen also struck and shot dead 12 policemen and eight anti-Qaeda fighters in the village of Al-Dulaimat near the town of Khan Bani Saad north of Baghdad3.

    At least 32 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a string of bomb attacks in Baghdad on September 27. While twelve died in a car-bomb attack in the south of the city, shortly before the Iftar meal, two further bombs struck the Karrada district later in the evening, leaving at least 19 people dead and 70 wounded. Senior US military commander in the capital, Maj.Gen. Jeffery Hammond had told reporters in the previous week that Baghdad had so far witnessed the least violent Ramadan in over three years. He however admitted that the past few days had seen a spike in the number of attacks4.