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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Thu: 50 Killed in Sadr City
Oil Minister Interrogated by Parliamentarians
By AMER MOHSEN 06/24/2009 6:34 PM ET
Today, Sadr City was the victim of the latest bombing in Iraq. Al-Jazeera reports – based on police sources – that over 50 Iraqis were killed when a bomb (apparently fixed to a motorcycle) exploded in a popular marketplace in the Shi'a district, six days before the official date of US withdrawal from Iraqi cities.

And with the approaching date of US withdrawal from Iraqi urban centers, the news channel reports that an insurgent faction, “Jaish al-Mujahideen,” announced the launching of a new campaign against US forces with the purpose of stepping up pressure in these critical days. Al-Jazeera says that the group sent a video portraying an alleged attack against an American vehicle in eastern Baghdad with a thermal grenade.

Otherwise, original news from Iraq was extremely scarce today, Az-Zaman (local edition) focused on new regulations concerning the salaries of retired Iraqi officers (in addition to the international visits of the paper’s publisher and owner, Sa'd al-Bazzaz.)

Pan-Arab al-Sharq al-Awsat, meanwhile, focused on the debates surrounding the Oil Minister, Husain al-Shahrastani, who is being interrogated by a critical Parliament whose members are insisting that the coming round of oil contracts not be handed out before being approved by the legislature.

Al-Shahrastani, however, has stated that the decisions regarding the contracts will be made by the end of the month, parliamentary protests notwithstanding. During his session in the Parliament, the Minister defended the oil contracts and their utility, pointing out that the first round will pertain to fields that are already producing, with the aim of raising production levels by 2 million barrels per day. A Sunni MP belonging to the dialogue front exclaimed that al-Shahrastani defended the technical aspects of the contracts, but did not clarify questions regarding their legality and constitutionality.

Lastly, London-based al-Quds al-'Arabi relayed statements by the leader of the KDP in Nineveh – which is witnessing political tensions between its Arab and Kurdish leaders – where he denied earlier reports claiming that he ordered schools in a Kurdish-controlled district to ban the teaching of Arabic and instruct students exclusively in Kurdish. Khusro Kuran, who heads the Kurdish-backed alliance in Nineveh said that he places Arabic in high regard and that he merely told the teachers in the district to focus on Kurdish instruction alongside Arabic.


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