Iraq parliament confirms May 12 as date for elections

In this file photo, members of the Iraqi parliament gather to vote on Iraq’s new government at the parliament headquarters in Baghdad, September 8, 2014. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 January 2018

Iraq parliament confirms May 12 as date for elections

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Parliament on Monday set May 12 as the date for holding national elections despite calls from the country’s Sunni community to delay the vote until the return of the millions displaced by the fight against Daesh.
MP Abbas Al-Bayati said lawmakers at a session in the Shiite-dominated house “unanimously” approved the date proposed by the government.
The country’s Supreme Court issued a ruling on Sunday against any delay to the elections.
The over three-year fight against Daesh has left most of the Sunni areas in northern and western Iraq in ruins, and poor public services have exacerbated the situation. The Sunnis argue that the current situation will make it hard for voters to update their information ahead of elections or cast their ballots.
Parliament Speaker Salim Al-Jabouri said the government is committed to returning the displaced and to creating a peaceful atmosphere for the elections. All weapons must be in the hands of the government during election campaigns and the voting day, Al-Jabouri added.
Prime Minister Haider Abadi has vowed to lead a “cross-sectarian” list, building on last year’s victory against Daesh. Three separate list — led by Shiite paramilitary troop leaders that fought Daesh, ex-Premier Nouri Al-Maliki who currently serves as one of three vice presidents, and followers of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr — are expected to be his main rivals.
Despite the declared victory over Daesh, Iraqi and US officials have warned it will likely to continue with insurgent-style attacks. Last week, two suicide attacks killed at least 46 and wounded more than 100.
Separately, an Iraqi court said Sunday it had condemned to death by hanging a German woman of Moroccan origin after finding her guilty of belonging to Daesh.
She is one of hundreds of foreign militants held by Iraqi authorities. The German was sentenced for providing “logistical support and helping the terrorist group to carry out crimes,” said court spokesman Abdel Settar Bayraqdar.
“The accused admitted during interrogations that she left Germany for Syria then Iraq to join Daesh with her two daughters, who married members of the terrorist organization,” he said.
The woman, who was not identified, has 30 days to appeal, after which she could be executed, said legal expert Ezzedine Al-Mohammadi.
She is believed to be the first European woman to be sentenced to death in Iraq in relation to Daesh.
A judicial source told AFP that one of the woman’s two daughters had been killed while with the militants.
The German media has reported that a German named Lamia K. and her daughter left Mannheim in August 2014 and were arrested by Iraqi forces during the final stages of the battle to oust Daesh from its stronghold Mosul last July.
At least two other German women are also in prison in Iraq, whose authorities have not officially said how many militants were taken prisoner during the battle against the terrorist group.
A German teenage girl suspected of joining Daesh was also arrested in Mosul, according to Germany’s justice department.
Iraqi commanders and Iraqi Kurdish fighters say hundreds of Daesh fighters gave themselves up during the battle, while others are said to have escaped by blending in with civilians fleeing the fighting.

Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

Updated 31 min 39 sec ago

Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

  • The UN statement said both sides ‘made important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces as envisaged in the Hodeidah agreement.’
  • Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil.

NEW YORK: Yemen’s government and the Houthi militias have agreed on the first stage of a mutual pullout of forces from the port city of Hodeidah, a key entry point for humanitarian aid, the United Nations said.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the government agreed in talks in December to withdraw troops by Jan. 7 from Hodeidah under a truce accord aimed at averting a full-scale assault on the port and paving the way for negotiations to end the four-year-old war.

“The parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” the UN spokesman’s office said in a statement without giving details on what was agreed.

Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil. This would be met by a retreat of Saudi-led coalition forces from the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah, where battles raged before a cease-fire went into effect on Dec. 18.

The Houthis occupy Hodeidah, the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial and aid imports, while Yemeni government forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi are massed on the outskirts.

The UN statement said the two sides also agreed “in principle” on Phase 2, entailing full redeployment of both parties’ forces in Hodeidah province.

Two sources involved in the negotiations said both sides had yet to agree on a withdrawal timeline or on a mechanism for local forces to take over security at the ports and city.

“The UN is still discussing how to reduce the gap between the two sides on how to choose the forces that will control the city,” one source told Reuters.

The parties could decide within 7-10 days on where they would reposition forces, said the other source, adding that Houthi fighters could pull back as far as 20 km from the port.

Disagreement on withdrawal had delayed opening humanitarian corridors in Yemen.

Under the first phase, the two sides agreed to reopen main roads linking Hodeidah to the Houthi-occupied capital Sanaa and in Yemen’s third city of Taiz, said a UN source.

They also agreed to enable access to Red Sea Mills, which holds some 50,000 tons of World Food Program grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month, the source said. Access to the site has been cut off since September due to fighting.

The Hodeidah truce has largely been respected but there have been intermittent skirmishes in flashpoints on the city’s edges.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the coalition twice launched an offensive to seize the port and weaken the Houthis by cutting of their main supply line.