The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni Arab political faction, yesterday announced its withdrawal from legislative elections scheduled for Jan. 30, saying its demands to delay...

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BAGHDAD, Iraq — The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni Arab political faction, yesterday announced its withdrawal from legislative elections scheduled for Jan. 30, saying its demands to delay the vote for six months or until security improved had been ignored.

Mohsin Abdul Hameed, the party’s chairman and a member of the interim national assembly, said party officials decided they couldn’t participate in a process that would leave out thousands of voters because of violence in predominantly Sunni cities.

“Election officials continue to refuse to listen to reason and postpone the elections,” Abdul Hameed said. “They insist elections will be held on time even though the security situation of Iraq is going from bad to worse.”

The electoral commission issued a statement saying it was too late to remove the party’s name from the ballot, but that any votes for the group would be declared invalid.

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Attacks target police,
national guard; 18 die

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Insurgents killed 18 Iraqi policemen and injured three others in multiple attacks on police posts around the city of Tikrit, and a car bomb targeting the home of a senior Iraqi national guard officer wounded nine people in northern Baghdad, officials said today.

Arkan Mohammed, a government official in Tikrit, said 12 men had died when gunmen attacked a police station 12 miles south of the city, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

U.S. military spokesman Capt. Bill Coppernoll confirmed that there had been attacks on police near Tikrit, but he could not provide casualty figures.

The car bomb in Baghdad targeted the home of a senior Iraqi national guard officer in the Azimiyah neighborhood, said Maj. Shaheed Attiyah of the Iraqi police. Nine of his guards and passers-by were injured.

Insurgents frequently launch attacks against the interim government’s security forces.

Purported bin Laden tape urges vote boycott

CAIRO, Egypt — In an audiotape broadcast yesterday by Al-Jazeera satellite TV, a man purported to be Osama bin Laden endorsed Jordanian militant Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq and called for a boycott of January’s elections. Al-Zarqawi has taken responsibility for dozens of beheadings and suicide car bombings.

The new tape, together with one that appeared online earlier this month, continues a new political slant adopted by the al-Qaida leader, whose past proclamations have been more a call to arms than a promotion of a cause. The voice on the tape broadcast yesterday sounded like bin Laden’s and the statement used language that appeared to conform with previous statements by the Saudi-born terror mastermind. However, there was no way to independently confirm the speaker’s identity.

Shiite leader escapes blast that killed many

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Abdul Aziz Hakim, the Shiite political leader who last week offered to have 100,000 members of a militia guard polling places in the Jan. 30 election, narrowly escaped death yesterday when a car bomb detonated just as a convoy carrying the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq leader pulled into the organization’s complex.

As many as 15 people, including two bodyguards and motorists stuck in traffic near the explosion, were killed. Hakim was not harmed.

Hakim’s offer of guards from the Badr Brigade, which officially has been disbanded but is accused of carrying out revenge attacks on former Baathists, has been rejected by the interim government.

Siblings on mission help GIs phone home

NORWELL, Mass. — For all the billions of dollars being spent on the war in Iraq, 14-year-old Brittany Bergquist is surprised that the U.S. military doesn’t do what she and her little brother are doing: helping soldiers phone home free.

” … We’ve always wanted to do something for the soldiers,” she said.

With $14 from their piggy banks, she and 12-year-old brother Robbie started Cell Phones for Soldiers. In less than nine months, the organization has provided $250,000 worth of prepaid calling cards to American soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait by collecting old cellular phones and selling them to companies that refurbish them for resale.

Military poll shows strong war backing

Support for the war in Iraq remains overwhelming among the active-duty military, according to a poll conducted by the Military Times.

Sixty-three percent of respondents approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, and 60 percent remain convinced it is a war worth fighting. Support for the war is even greater among those who have served longest in the combat zone: Two-thirds of combat vets say the war is worth fighting.

But those in uniform are under no illusions about how long they will be fighting in Iraq; nearly half said they expect to be there more than five years.

The poll included 1,423 active-duty subscribers to Air Force Times, Army Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times. Subscribers to the four newspapers were randomly surveyed by mail in late November and early December.