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Archive for January 13th, 2010|Daily archive page

HCMC bus operator to trial ‘smart cards’

In Vietnam Travel on January 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm

The Ho Chi Minh City Public Transport Operation and Management Center will initiate a program allowing passengers to use “smart cards” on the Saigon-Binh Tay and Ben Thanh-Au Co-An Suong bus routes on a trial basis, the center’s manager said January 12.








A bus station in Ho Chi Minh City. (Filed photo)

The center will apply smart card technology from February 1 on the Saigon-Binh Tay route and from March 1 on the Ben Thanh-Au Co-An Suong route.


Both monthly and yearly cards will be available.


Buses will be equipped with a card reader that subtracts funds from cardholders’ accounts. Passengers can charge more money to their accounts as necessary.


For yearly cards, passengers must add at least VND69,000 (US$3.60) to their accounts each time, tantamount to 30 trips or VND2,300 per trip.


The card will be valid for one year and there is no limit to how many times passengers can add money to their accounts.


A monthly student card can be purchased for a minimum of VND63,000 (US$3.30), equivalent to 60 trips or VND1,050 per trip.


Monthly cards for all other passengers, meanwhile, cost a minimum of VND90,000 (US$4.70), equivalent to 60 trips or VND1,500 per trip.


There is no limit to how many times passengers can add money during the month, and cards can be pre-paid for up to two months.


Passengers can add money to their cards at the Saigon Bus Station, Le Lai Street, District 1 and Cho Lon Bus Station.


A one-time fee of VND30,000 (US$1.6) is applied for new and replacement cards.


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VEA orders HVS to use slag alternative

In Vietnam Society on January 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm








Mr. Le Ke Son

Deputy head of the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA), Le Ke Son, January 12 said inspectors had asked the Hyundai Vinashin Shipyard Co. (HVS) to use alternatives to toxic copper slag when cleaning and repairing ships.


Speaking to Sai Gon Giai Phong, Mr. Son said inspectors had ordered HVS to immediately begin using steel balls or water as alternatives to the slag, known as nix grains, to remove rust and paint from its ships.


Inspectors asked officials in the central province of Khanh Hoa where HVS is based, to support the Vietnam-Korea joint venture in maintaining production in times of economic hardship.


Mr. Son, tasked with leading the HVS investigation, stressed that the company’s earlier production and use of 800,000 tons of nix violated environmental protection laws and had caused public concern for over a year.


The shipyard was ordered last March by the VEA [a division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE)], the environment police, and Ministry of Transport inspectors to take environmental protection measures.


Mr. Son said that HVS would still be responsible for the 800,000 tons of previously produced nix and the company must commit to building a waste treatment facility.


The VEA deputy head said that while copper slag was a more efficient material for refurbishing ships, residents’ health and the environment could not be sacrificed for economic benefits.


Mr. Son reiterated that nix grain is not an illegal substance; therefore, HVS would be allowed to use it in the future if it ensured a good storage area and came up with effective nix treatment measures.


The provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment must conduct regular environmental monitoring and impose severe penalties if violations are found, Mr. Son added.

Also on January 12, HVS sent a document to the media explaining its use of nix. It said in the last two years, HVS has tried to reduce the amount of nix used to repair ships.


However, due to a drop in clients as a result of the economic crisis, over 1,000 of HVS’ 3,600 workers had to be laid off. HVS says it therefore had no choice but to import more than 20,000 tons of nix to increase the efficiency of its ship cleaning and maintain profits. The company said it would not buy more nix in the future.


A treatment factory for the slag is planned to begin construction in March, 2011 with a capacity of 300,000 tons a year.






Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has asked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) to focus on improving environmental management mechanisms and policies on sustainable protection of the environment.

MoNRE needs to immediately prioritize safe water supplies for both urban and rural areas, Mr. Dung said while addressing a year-end conference on January 12 in Hanoi to review MoNRE work in 2009 and outline plans for 2010.

He urged the ministry to pay due attention to inspecting and examining rivers nationwide to detect potential pollution problems early and deal promptly with polluters.

Regarding the planning and use of land, MoNRE should better its management and use land resources in an economically efficient and appropriate manner, PM Dung said.

He requested that MoNRE work to protect wet-rice farm land, and specialized and protective forests, to help ensure both food security and environmental protection.

MoNRE said it completed almost all targets set for 2009, notably the issuance of a resolution on stepping up economization of the natural resources and environment sector.
 


Related articles:
Complaints escalate over HVS use of toxic slag
Locals accuse HVS of continued nightly toxin use
Residents worry over HVS dumping of toxic slag


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Central bank calls halt to gold-trading loans

In Vietnam Banking Finance on January 13, 2010 at 8:37 am








Investors trade gold at a gold exchange.

The State Bank of Vietnam ordered commercial banks January 11 to stop lending to investors in gold trading floors and recall loans given to them.


It has instructed its branches in cities and provinces to monitor implementation of the order and penalize banks not following the instruction.


The central bank has ordered the closure of gold exchanges by March 30 this year.


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Drug watchdog orders tough action against HCMC drugstore chain

In Vietnam Health on January 13, 2010 at 8:36 am








HCM City Market management inspectors check drugs at an outlet of My  Chau at 338 Le Van Sy Street, district 3 on Jan. 8, 2009 ( Photo: Tuoi tre)

The Drug Administrations of Vietnam has ordered the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health impose severe punishment on the My Chau drugstore chain for possessing hundreds of containers of expired and unregistered drugs and food supplements.


In a dispatch January 12, Nguyen Viet Hung, deputy head of the administration told the DoH to also review its certification of My Chau for Good Pharmacy Practice (GPP) and report back.


Tran Quang Trung, chief of Ministry of Health (MoH) inspector, ordered the DoH to liaise with the city Market Management Bureau to find out My Chau’s violations and report to the ministry.


During routine checks in the last two years, ministry inspectors detected several wrongdoings by My Chai but did not investigate further, instead ordering the drugstore itself to fix them since it had just been awarded a GPP certification.


They also admitted they failed to discover the violations uncovered recently by the Market Management Bureau because they were unable to enter warehouses during their inspection.


Mr. Trung said the DoH must be held accountable for the violations because it had certified that seven out of My Chau’s 18 outlets conform to GPP standards.






Le Dinh Bach, manager of Minh Phuc Pharmacy, who owns  My Chau drugstore chain, wrote to Sai Gon Giai Phong January 12 claiming it has reported wrongly about his company’s activities.

His company bought 10 outlets and a warehouse from Y Duc last April and discovered some expired drugs in stock. They remained in storage until documents for their destruction could be made, he claimed. Unfortunately, at that time, his boss and director, Le Thi My Chau, went abroad for six months, causing a delay in drafting the documents, he said.


He also claimed his company did not pay much attention to the origins of the drugs that were in stock when it bought the operations. 


Related article:
Health department under scanner as drugstore chain caught with expired drugs
HCMC drugstore chain faces closure for violations


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Africa Cup: Egypt restore sanity, Benin denied first win

In Vietnam Sports on January 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

LUANDA, Jan 13, 2010 (AFP) – Champions Egypt kicked off their Africa Cup of Nations’ title defence in scintillating style on Tuesday to restore some measure of sanity to proceedings in Angola after a spate of shocks on the opening two days.








The Egyptian national team pose before their football match against Nigeria in the group “C” stage match at the African Cup of Nations CAN2010 at the Ombaka stadium in Benguela on January 12, 2010. Egypt won 3-1. AFP PHOTO

Hustled out of a World Cup berth by bitter rivals Algeria in November’s play-off the Pharaohs arrived here with motivation aplenty.


And they hit the ground running with a 3-1 defeat of Nigeria to top Group C ahead of Mozambique and Benin, who shared the spoils 2-2 in the day’s other game.


After Angola’s sensational collapse to Mali, Malawi’s whipping of Algeria, and favourites Ivory Coast being held by Burkina Faso, Egypt took to the pitch at their peril.


But the six-time champions didn’t falter as they brought an end to a 33-year-old winless run they have endured against the west Africans with the goals coming from Emad Motaeb, skipper Ahmed Hassan, and Substitute Mohamed Nagi.


Nigeria had taken an early lead through Chinedu Obasi.


Striker Mohamed Zidan said: “We didn’t give up. I think we deserved the victory.”


Egypt’s assistant coach, Shawki Garib, added: “The victory over Nigeria is just the beginning, we still have a long way to go and so we still need our fans’ genuine support and prayers.”


Nigeria coach, Shuaibu Amodu, said his team paid the price for some schoolboy errors.


“We played well and controlled the game especially in the first half but somehow we made some silly mistakes and we were punished,” said a miserable Amodu.


Later, Benin were on course for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations win when they shot out of the starting stalls to go two goals up in the first 20 minutes against Mozambique.


Their goals came via a penalty by Razak Omotoyossi and an own goal by Mozambique defender Dario Khan.


Mozambique’s Almiro Lobo reduced the deficit before the half hour mark with Goncalves Fumo netting the equaliser in the 54th minute.


Benin coach, Michel Dessuyer, said: “I have to accept this result even though we lost a 2-0 lead. We failed to defend our advantage and now we have to focus on the next match against Nigeria.”


His Mozambican counterpart, Mart Nooij, reflected: “The first 20 minutes was disastrous for us. After a good prepration, the players went into the game like a bull chasing after a red flag, but we came back in the second half and played a very wonderful game.”


The latest developments from Friday’s deadly attack on the Togo team bus centred on the arrest by Angolan police of two suspects wanted in connection with the machine gun assault which has cast a long shadow over the competition.


Burkina Faso, one of the three teams left in Cabinda where the attack took place, are desperate to leave the troubled province which has been the subject of a massive clampdown by security forces.


“We want to get to Luanda as quickly as possible due to the security question,” Burkina Faso’s assistant coach Gualbert Kabore declared.


“We have to stay in Cabinda until Saturday morning. Organisers have taken draconian measures and to get out we have to be accompanied by security personnel. It complicates life.”


Meanwhile, 2010 World Cup boss Danny Jordaan told AFP that Angola was aware of the dangers of staging games in the restive enclave and must take responsibility for the attack.


“How long is it known that there is a separatist group in Angola for many many years? What are the possibilities of a terror attack? It was known,” Jordaan said.


“It is a responsibility of the host nation to deal with those issues,” said Jordaan, who led a technical team to Angola in 2006 to assess its readiness for the tournament, on behalf of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).


Wednesday’s action sees Group D get up and running in Lubango, with Cameroon facing Gabon and Tunisia, champions in 2004 on home turf, up against Zambia.


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Angola knew Cabinda matches risky: World Cup chief

In Vietnam Sports on January 13, 2010 at 8:35 am








An Angolan policeman stands guard outside the Tunisian national football team Hotel on the eve of their group stage match at the African Cup of Nations CAN2010 against Zambia at the Grand Hotel Huila in Lubango, Angola on January 12, 2010. (AFP photo)

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 12, 2010 (AFP) – Angola knew the dangers of staging games in the restive Cabinda enclave and must take responsibility for the deadly gun attack at Africa’s premier football event, the World Cup boss said Tuesday.


“How long is it known that there is a separatist group in Angola for many many years? What are the possibilities of a terror attack? It was known,” Danny Jordaan told AFP.


“It is a responsibility of the host nation to deal with those issues,” said Jordaan, who led a technical team to Angola in 2006 to assess its readiness for the tournament, on behalf of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).


All the concerns about the tournament were included in a report that was handed over to CAF, he said.


Jordaan again brushed off worries that the attack, killing the squad’s assistant coach and media spokesman, could affect the World Cup, which kicks off in South Africa in June.


“What happened in Angola has nothing to with South Africa. Please judge us fairly,” Jordaan, the World Cup’s chief organiser, told a news conference earlier.


“We must be judged on reality, not on perception. We hosted 147 major international events since 1994 and we didn’t have any incidents,” he said.


Separatist guerrillas opened fire on Togo’s convoy Friday as they crossed into Cabinda from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville, leaving players cowering under their seats during a 20-minute gunbattle with security escorts.


Togo withdrew from the tournament on Sunday, just as the opening ceremonies kicked off in Luanda, and coach Hubert Velud told AFP that he believed authorities hadn’t provided adequate security to the team.


“Security was very light, and the way it was organised, we felt that transparency and communication were not of the best quality,” he said.


“At first, they tried to minimise the thing. I resented that. It added to the psychological trauma,” he said.


Two people have been arrested, but Angolan authorities have revealed few details about the men.


Security forces have since clamped down on Cabinda, a tiny but economically crucial province that produces more than half of the oil in Africa’s top exporter.


Soldiers have cordoned off the footballers’ village in Cabinda, along with tight security at the 20,000-seat Chiazi stadium, which hosted its first match in the tournament without incident on Monday.


Two different separatist groups have claimed responsibility for last week’s attack, highlighting the difficulties Angola faces in reining in a deeply fractured guerrilla movement.


The attack was initially claimed by Rodrigues Mingas, head of the Forces for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda-Military Position (FLEC-PM), who lives in exile in France.


But a larger group known as the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) on Tuesday said they had opened fire on Togo’s convoy.


While Mingas on Sunday threatened more attacks during Africa’s premier football tournament, FLEC-FAC said their intended target was Togo’s military escort and vowed not to stage any more attacks during the competition.


“We are not terrorists, the attack did not target our Togolese brothers,” said Jean-Claude N’Zita, a top adviser to FLEC-FAC who lives in exile in Switzerland.


“Every time the Armed Forces of Cabinda sees an Angolan convoy, they open fire,” he said.


“We have nothing against our African brothers, and we like football,” he said by telephone, dismissing Mingas’s faction as “opportunists”.


Alex Vines, an analyst with the British think-tank Chatham House, said the rival claims were part of the “exile politics” of separatist leaders who live mainly in Europe and who all claim to represent various FLEC splinter groups.


“Some say there’s indiscipline within small FLEC units and they’re not controlled at all from the outside, from their leadership,” he said.


“The history of FLEC is… one of fragmentation and splintering. That makes it a very difficult challenge.”


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Federer’s imposing claim for another Slam win

In Vietnam Sports on January 13, 2010 at 8:34 am

MELBOURNE, Jan 13, 2010 (AFP) – A resurgent Roger Federer is again the man to beat in next week’s Australian Open as he shoots for his 16th Grand Slam crown in the year’s opening major.


Just when his rivals appeared to have closed the gap on the Swiss, the world number one had another stellar season in 2009, winning his first-ever French Open and a sixth Wimbledon title.








(File) Roger Federer (AFP photo)

The 28-year-old great became the all-time Grand Slam leader in men’s tennis in the process, passing the 14 won by American Pete Sampras.


Federer was duly crowned the International Tennis Federation (ITF) champion for the fifth time and finished the year-end ATP top-ranked player for the fifth time in six years.


Underlining his incredible consistency, Federer has only missed playing in one of the last 18 Grand Slam finals, his sole slip-up coming when he lost to Russian Marat Safin in the semi-finals of the 2008 Australian Open.


When it comes to determining the likely winner of this year’s tournament it is hard to go past Federer.


“If I’m healthy this year I can win many more tournaments and that could also help get me more confidence, more momentum,” he said ahead of the Open.


Federer will be chasing his fourth Australian Open victory and takes a 47-7 match record into the Melbourne event.


If there is to be an upset it looks likely to come from defending champion Rafael Nadal, the 2008 champion Novak Djokovic, British hope Andy Murray or Federer’s conqueror at last year’s US Open final, Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro.


Nadal, who toppled Federer from the number one ranking in August 2008 and held it for 46 weeks until handing it back to the Swiss last July, admits to suffering a crisis of confidence heading into his title defence.


He has had increasing problems with arthritic knees, suffered from an abdominal injury, and reportedly been affected by the recent break-up of his parents’ marriage.


“I have had a lot of problems in the head,” Nadal said. “But that’s life. You have to accept problems and you have to come back. I am trying. We will see what happens in the next six months.”


Nadal, who will be seeded to face Federer in the 2010 Australian final, holds an impressive 13-7 record over him, but a disrupted 2009 season may count against the Spaniard over the next two weeks.


Djokovic finished third on the year-end rankings by a big space ahead of Del Potro and Murray, and has shown a liking for the court and the conditions of Melbourne with his win here two years ago.


“Last year I ended my title defence in the quarter-finals with the retirement (against Andy Roddick),” Djokovic said.


“That was what you would call the ugliest way that I could have finished that tournament.


“I always try to set up in the best possible shape and form for the Grand Slams and I have all the reasons to believe I can perform my best tennis this year.”


Del Potro has leap-frogged Murray into the fourth ranking spot and although his Australian Open record is modest with just a quarter-final appearance at three attempts, his epic win over Federer at Flushing Meadow last year earns him respect.


Murray is burdened with the national expectation of becoming the first British player to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry’s 1936 US Open triumph.


“I think I’m ready to win it,” Murray said at last week’s Hopman Cup in Perth.


“I feel like I’m serving well, moving well and playing the ball better than I have done for a long time at the back of the court and I am volleying well.”


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Serena on top but Henin, Clijsters Open threat

In Vietnam Sports on January 13, 2010 at 8:34 am

MELBOURNE, Jan 13, 2010 (AFP) – Defending champion Serena Williams heads into the Australian Open as firm favourite but the return of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters adds an enticing twist to the opening Grand Slam of the season.








This file photo taken on January 31, 2009 shows Serena Wiliams of the US celebrating with the trophy after defeating Dinara Safina of Russia in their singles final match on day 13 of the Australian Open in Melbourne (AFP photo)

A dominant Williams crushed Dinara Safina in the final last year and went on to claim the Wimbledon title, improving her collection to 11 majors as she ended the season as world number one.


Opting to start her year at the Sydney International this week, the American insisted she didn’t feel any extra pressure with the Belgian pair coming out of retirement.


“I don’t think about it a lot. I’ve got a lot on my plate. Everyone assumes that I’m number one anyway,” she said.


“My main goals are always to stay healthy and that’s a huge goal for any athlete.


“For me, it’s all about doing the best that I can. Obviously, I love playing well in all the Grand Slams and I hate to lose, regardless of where it is.”


She is gunning for her fifth Australian title and is one of only three players in the field to have lifted the trophy — Maria Sharapova and Henin are the others.


World number two Safina is back to try and avenge her humiliating defeat to Williams in less than an hour last year, but she has been hampered by a back injury.


It forced her out of tennis in October but the Russian said all is now well and she is confident of challenging for the title once again.


“I’m 100 percent. I’m ready to play,” she said.


“If I play my best, let’s see what can happen.”


She leads a strong Russian challenge which also includes Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva, and Vera Zvonareva — all top 10 players.


Also back in business after a long lay-off with a shoulder injury is Sharapova, the 2008 champion and former world number one.


She said she was feeling fit and raring to reclaim her place in the top 10.


“I keep getting stronger. I’m ready for the challenge (in Australia) — mentally and physically,” said the 22-year-old, now ranked 14.


“Obviously I stepped away because I had to,” she added.


“It was frustrating — very frustrating. And boring…. But there is no better healer than time.”


Serena’s sister, Venus, will also be a threat but it is the return to Melbourne of Clijsters and Henin that has whetted appetites.


Clijsters, a crowd favourite in Australia, retired in May 2007 to have a baby but made a partial comeback last year which saw her sensationally win the US Open.


This year is her first full season back on tour and few will bet against her making the second week of the tournament after beating Henin to win the Brisbane International last week.


“I think we are both capable of getting back into the top 10 and I think it won’t take long for Justine to have a crack at that,” she said.


Henin retired in May 2008 when world number one with seven Grand Slam titles, including the 2004 Australian Open, citing a lack of desire.


But the lure of the game has drawn her back and she looks as good as she ever.


Now 27, she injured her leg late in the Brisbane final, but said the tournament had given her a big boost ahead of the Open.


“I’m really happy, it gives me the confidence I need before the Open,” she said.


Others players in contention include popular Serb Jelena Jankovic and her compatriot Ana Ivanovic, who is desperate to recover from a disappointing 2009 when she slumped to 22 in the world after a run of injuries and poor form.


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VSTV launches new satellite broadcasting service

In Vietnam Science on January 13, 2010 at 8:33 am

Vietnam Satellite Digital Television (VSTV), a joint venture of Vietnam Television (VTV) and the Canal + Group in France, officially launched a new satellite TV service called “K+” on January 12 in Hanoi.









Logo of the new satellite TV service called “K+”.


The new service is the largest of its kind in Vietnam.


K+ will broadcast nearly 60 channels dedicated to entertainment, movies and sports.


The satellite TV service will also broadcast its own “K+” programs and be the exclusive broadcaster of several high-profile Champions League, UEFA, French, and Spanish football matches among others.


Most K+ channels will be dubbed in Vietnamese or have Vietnamese subtitles.


VTV is the leading satellite TV service Direct to Home (DTH) operator in the country. By partnering with the experienced operator, VSTV will be able to design and supply a host of new channel packages with Vietnamese appeal.


Employing the latest in satellite technology, VSTV says it will ensure high-quality visual and audio features in its channel packages throughout the country.


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Bomb plot against ministries in Baghdad thwarted

In World on January 13, 2010 at 4:50 am

Iraqi forces seized a large cache of explosives and arrested suspected insurgents allegedly planning to target government ministries Tuesday, in a crackdown across the capital that brought parts of the city to a standstill.


The security measures demonstrated the ever-present fear that insurgents will carry out more bombings, like the ones against government buildings in past months that killed hundreds, ahead of the March elections.


The government’s announcement that it had arrested 25 suspects and seized 880 pounds (400 kilograms) of military grade explosives also set off bitter accusations from some Sunni politicians that the government had exaggerated the incident to burnish its security credentials.








An Iraqi police officer uses a scanner device to inspect a car at checkpoint in central Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010.

The charges laid bare once more the stark lack of trust in Iraq between the Shiite-dominated government and the Sunni Muslims who oppose the government.


Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the capital’s top military spokesman, said security forces had seized 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of TNT, 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of C4 explosive and 66 gallons (250 liters) of ammonium nitrate, an ingredient to make explosives, and 60 mortar shells. Twenty-five suspects who had been planning an attack that morning were arrested, he said.


Legislator Abdul Karim al-Samarraie, the deputy head of parliament’s security and defense committee, said the insurgents were planning to target government ministries although he did not have details on which ones.


There was no way to independently verify the reports.


An explosives expert said if the figures al-Moussawi quoted were true, then the security forces had seized enough explosives to make around 120 suicide vests, or around ten average-size car bombs, or a giant truck bomb big enough to blast a crater 32 feet (10 meters) deep in a tarred road.


The expert spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.


“This will not prevent the insurgents from attacking, but it will slow their operations,” said analyst Tim Brown at GlobalSecurity.org. “If the reports prove true, it represents a major success for the Iraqi government.”


The sweep followed hours of cordon and search operations across the capital. Such operations have become rare since security in Iraq improved in 2008. However, every couple of months, insurgents still succeed in carrying out horrific bombings. Hundreds were killed when blasts targeted government institutions in central Baghdad in recent months.


The issue of security is becoming increasingly politicized ahead of March 7 polls. Sunni lawmakers were quick to question whether the lockdown ordered by the Shiite-dominated government on Tuesday was really necessary and emphasized the inconvenience it caused ordinary Iraqis who could not get to work or school.


“The government is trying to leave the citizens with the impression that there is a battle. They terrified and shocked the people,” said legislator Saleh al-Mutlaq. “We think that these measures are totally unjustifiable.”


Iraqi security forces are increasingly taking over duties from the U.S. military, whose combat units are scheduled to leave by the end of August. The stakes are especially high for the prime minister‘s Rule of Law coalition, which is campaigning on its ability to protect citizens and its record in reducing violence.


In a reminder of the continuing instability, four policemen were killed and another wounded when a bomb exploded near their vehicle in Al-Saadiyah, 90 miles (140 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, a policeman and a morgue official said Tuesday.


The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.


Sunni lawmaker Dhafir al-Ani said that the government is preying on people’s fears with the security operations to boost their chances in the polls.


“Now (the government) is afraid of losing their authority, they have started to beat the drums of war and making people live in a military atmosphere … We also noticed how people were greatly annoyed by these measures.”

Iraq’s nationwide election will be a crucial test whether Iraqis can vote in a government capable of overcoming deepening ethnic and sectarian rivalries, or whether those divisions will dissolve into violence that threatens the country’s unity and regional stability.

Tensions have already arisen after a government committee charged with keeping supporters of the Saddam Hussein regime out of politics recommended that al-Mutlaq’s party and 13 others be banned from the elections over alleged links to the former dictator.

“Members of those entities were personnel of the former regime’s repressive security apparatus, or Mukhabarat (secret police) officers, and some of them were collaborators with the former regime,” said Ali al-Lami, the head of the committee.

The potential exclusion of al-Mutlaq, who holds the second largest bloc of Sunni seats in parliament, raised fears that Sunnis might boycott the polls again, as they did in a January 2005 election. That boycott was followed by a surge in insurgent attacks.


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