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Iraqi PM Reopens Controversial Newspaper
AP ^ | 7/18/04 | TAREK EL-TABLAWY,

Posted on 07/18/2004 9:48:50 AM PDT by TexKat

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim prime minister issued a decree allowing a controversial newspaper to reopen after it had been closed by U.S. officials in March, setting off months of fighting between U.S. forces and militants loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The weekly Al-Hawza was the mouthpiece of al-Sadr's "Sadrist" movement, routinely carrying his fiery sermons on its front page along with articles sharply critical of the U.S.-led occupation, which formally ended June 28.

Iraq's former American governor, L. Paul Bremer, ordered the newspaper closed for two months on March 28 for allegedly inciting violence against coalition troops.

Bremer's closure order expired May 28, but al-Hawza's editor in chief, Abbas al-Robai, has said that trying to resume publication then could have exposed the newspaper's editorial staff to arrest.

The closure and the arrest a few days later of a close al-Sadr aide in the holy city of Najaf began an anti-coalition uprising by militiamen loyal to al-Sadr in Baghdad and across Shiite areas in central and southern Iraq. A series of truces ended the fighting, which had raged on-and-off for two months.

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, himself a Shiite, ordered the paper reopened in an effort to show his "absolute belief in the freedom of the press," his office said in a statement.

Bremer's decision to close al-Hawza had drawn condemnation from members of the now-defunct Governing Council, who said it ran counter to talk of securing freedom for Iraqis. Privately, some officials of Bremer's now-disbanded coalition authority also criticized the decision, arguing that it had unnecessarily angered a large segment of Iraq's Shiite majority at a time when the U.S. military had its hands full fighting an insurgency in Sunni areas.

The order to reopen al-Hawza appears designed to broaden Allawi's base of support as his administration struggles to tackle a worsening security situation while trying build national support for the new government.

Al-Sadr and his top aides have repeatedly called Allawi's unelected government illegitimate, but said their movement was prepared to adopt a wait-and-see policy as the country prepares for a general election due in January. Al-Sadr also said he wanted to see how much influence the United States, with the bulk of the 160,000 coalition troops here, has on government decisions.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: alhawza; alsadrssadrist; bremer; iraqimedia; iraqipress; iyadallawi; muqtadaalsadr; newspapers

Fri Jul 16,11:01 AM ET

Top Baghdad representative of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Sheikh Aws Al-Kafaji waves a Shiite flag during Friday prayers in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq Friday, July 16, 2004. Al-Kafaji said that the new interim Iraqi government must keep to its pledge of holding elections in January.(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

1 posted on 07/18/2004 9:48:50 AM PDT by TexKat
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To: TexKat

Thanks for posting. It could go either way. At the time Messrs Bremer and Powell were ordering that paper "down"; was in the time period leading on up to the Fallujah uprisings. It was a very smart and wise move to shut down that paper, then. However, currently, on the positive side -- paper going to press again -- could then bring the "local" enemies out into the open, whereby they might be more easily and readily identified by the new Iraqi government. I don't think new Iraqi government wishes more violence in their new country -- but I do think it wise they have a good idea as to who is "evangelizing" insurgent assassinations upon innocents and coalition forces.

2 posted on 07/18/2004 11:00:56 AM PDT by Alia
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