Coup plotters arrested; Nineveh calls for election delay

Iraqi security forces arrested 35 high-ranking security officials who, they said, were attempting to revive the Baath Party of former president Saddam Hussein, al-Arabiya TV reported on Thursday quoting sources in the Iraqi ministry of interior, dpa reported.

The 35 officials were accused of attempting a secret coup d’etat against the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki.

The officials were arrested over the last three days under a judicial order. Their arrest was confirmed by the ministry of Interior and al-Maliki’s office.

Sources said that the officials belonged to al-Awdaa (or “the return”) party who are trying to reconstitute the outlawed Baath party. The Baath party consists mainly of Sunnis, a Muslim minority in Iraq who ruled the country for 35 years before the US-led invasion in 2003.

Iraq’s security forces also confiscated a large sum of money that was being used by the officers to recruit people for the coup, the sources said.

Meanwhile, authorities in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province have called for the postponement of its provincial elections, due to take place next month, because of fears that citizens who fled the province would not be able to vote, Nineveh’s council said on Thursday.

Some 19 members voted for the postponement and seven members voting against it in the 41-member provincial legislature.

The Iraqi central government in Baghdad would need to approve the council’s request for postponement. Members who demanded the postponement of elections were mostly from the Kurdistan Alliance.

Thousands of Kurds and Christians have fled the province because of sectarian strife since the US-led invasion.

“Those citizens will not be able to vote because they are not registered in the ballots,” Kurdish Lawmaker, Mahdi al-Herki said.

Lawmakers from the Iraqi Islamic Party said delaying elections could further threaten the province’s stability.

“The demand for postponement the elections has political reasons behind it and any postponement is harmful for the province’s security and economy,” said Yehia Mahgoub.

Iraq’s national provincial elections are scheduled to take place on January 31 2009. It will take place in 14 out of Iraq’s 18 provinces, excluding the three Kurdish provinces of Dahuk, Sulimaniya, and Arbil along with the disputed multi-ethic Kirkuk.