Top Shiite cleric may drop demand for Iraq direct elections as US renews claims WMD moved to Syria
U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts said there was some concern Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had moved to Syria.
Roberts, a leading member of President Bush's Republican Party, said on Wednesday: "I think that there is some concern that shipments of WMD went to Syria."
Syria in the past denied U.S. charges it has weapons of mass destruction programs.
"The jury is still out," Vice President Dick Cheney said on the failure so far to find any weapons of mass destruction since Saddam Hussein was toppled last April. "It's going to take some additional considerable period of time to look at all of the cubby holes and...dumps and all the places in Iraq where you might expect to find something like that," Cheney told U.S. National Public Radio.
Meanwhile, a political leader from Iraq's majority Shi'ite community said the top cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was likely to drop a demand for early direct elections if the United Nations concluded they would not be feasible.
The U.S.-led occupying authorities claim it would be hard to hold elections before the planned June handover of power to Iraqis due to the bad security situation and the lack of electoral registers and laws.
In past days, Shi'ites have held mass demonstrations in support of Sistani's call for elections.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is still considering dispatching a team to Iraq at the request of Washington and the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to study whether it would be possible to hold a national election in the next few months.
"If there is a U.N. delegation that has a background in electoral and census matters, and has an open dialogue...one side may be convinced by what the other says," said Ibrahim al-Jaafari, head of Iraq's Shi'ite Dawa party.
"Whatever the result, if it comes to an agreement, I believe Sistani will accept that," said Jaafari, who is also a member of the Governing Council. (Albawaba.com)
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