Iraqi President orders probe into elections ban
Baghdad: Iraq`s President said on Thursday a high-level commission will investigate the legitimacy of a decision to ban candidates with suspected ties to Saddam Hussein`s regime from running in the March 7 Parliamentary Election.
Jalal Talabani said a presidential panel will study whether the committee that issued the ban against 511 candidates has been given the full authority and support from Parliament. The blacklist has angered some Sunni leaders and threatens to cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the vote.
"I myself am not satisfied with the banning decision," said Talabani, a Kurd who heads the three-member presidential council. "We have sent a letter to the Supreme Appeal Court asking whether this committee that issued the decision is legitimate or not."
US Vice President Joe Biden is expected to visit Baghdad to try to ease tensions over the ban.
Washington hopes the March election will be a significant step toward reconciliation between the majority Shi’ites and the once-dominant Sunni minority, and will help cement substantial but still tenuous security gains. American troops are expected to accelerate their withdrawal from Iraq soon after the election.
British security contractor shoots 2
Meanwhile in Baghdad, a British security contractor accused of shooting two colleagues to death appeared briefly in court, where the judge accepted a defence request to have him examined by a medical and psychological committee, his lawyer said.
The contractor, Danny Fitzsimons, is accused of shooting two colleagues, a Briton and an Australian, during a fight in Baghdad`s heavily fortified Green Zone in the summer. All three men were working for the British security firm ArmorGroup Iraq.
Fitzsimons` defence team argue he is suffering from mental anguish caused by his military service in Iraq.
Fitzsimons would be the first Westerner to face an Iraqi trial since a US-Iraqi security pact that took effect just over a year ago lifted immunity for foreign contractors.
The trial has been adjourned until February 18, according to Fitzsimons` attorney, Tariq Harb.
Iraqi Army Colonel killed
Violence remains a problem as the election nears.
Gunmen killed an Iraqi Army Colonel near his house in the country`s north, marking the third deadly attack in a day on members of security forces in the area.
The victim`s cousin, Nafaa Khudir, identified the officer on Thursday as Col Salih Ahmed al-Ukaydi of the Iraqi Army`s 2nd division.
He said the father of seven was headed on foot to visit a friend near Namrood, a mostly Sunni village about 18 miles (30 kilometres) south of Mosul, when he was shot by the unidentified gunmen around 10 pm on Wednesday.
Police at the operations command of Ninevah province, where the area is located, confirmed the attack.
The shooting came hours after two off-duty policemen were killed in Mosul.
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