Thursday, February 26, 2004

This is actually a stunning break for us. Maybe he really doesn't want a civil war. He doesn't sound like he's backing down, because he's DEMANDING something - but he won't insist on elections by June 30 like he said he was going to.

Even with this, civil war still seems horribly likely in Iraq - unless we dare hope Sistani is negotiating with some Sunni's about constitutional protections which won't enable the majority to persecute the minority.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 26 — Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most powerful religious leader, demanded Thursday that nationwide elections be held by the end of the year, but dropped his earlier insistence on holding them before the United States transfers sovereignty to the Iraqis on June 30.

In a statement released by his office in Najaf, Ayatollah Sistani called for "clear guarantees," possibly in the form of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council, that elections would be held in 2004. He said the caretaker government that is likely to take control of the country from the Americans at the end of June should confine itself to an agenda largely limited to setting up the elections.

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