Angry Farmers Sabotage Chinese Oil Equipment in Southern Iraq

Angry Iraqi farmers have grounded Chinese oil activities in southern Iraq to a halt, sources and residents said.

They said the farmers destroyed cables and pipelines the Chinese have extended over their farms.

It is the second incident in less than a week involving the Ahdab oil field which the China National Petroleum Corporation is developing.

Last week unidentified gunmen destroyed a power station feeding the field but an Oil Ministry source said the damage did not lead to a halt in Chinese activities.

The damage the gunmen caused "did not halt the seismic and exploration work by the Chinese," said Assem Jihad, the ministry's spokesman.

But the farmers' revolt has practically prevented the Chinese from working as without these cables and pipelines the field's development would be impossible.

The farmers fear the government will confiscate their farms. "The Chinese have entered our land without permission and extended their cables. The work has destroyed our farms," one farmer, refusing to be named, said.

Jihad said the damage to the farms was minimal and "and cannot be used as an excuses for sabotage.

"There are hidden hands pushing the farmers to commit acts of sabotage. They want to stop the oil project on behalf of a foreign state," he said.

Jihad admitted that conditions for the Chinese were not so good.

"The company has moved its position to an uninhabited site. Such moves have detrimental impact on the sensitive equipment the company is dealing with," he said.

Jihad said all the area needed for the development of Ahdab belonged to the state and the farmers had illegally moved there.

But the farmers say they will prevent any such activities on their land until they are handsomely compensated.

Jihad said the government has intensified security in the area where the Chinese are working.

Gunmen Attack Chinese Oil Installations In Southern Iraq

Unidentified gunmen have destroyed a power station feeding the Ahdab oil field which a Chinese firm is developing.

The attack is the first on Ahdad for the development of which the China National Petroleum Corporation had signed a $3 billion contract with Iraq in 2008.

The Chinese had only started operations in earnest last month and the attack is a blow to their plans to develop the field situated in the border Province of Wasit southeast of Baghdad.

Iraqis provide security for the Chinese workers and their equipment and the Chinese are also reported to have brought with them their own security team.

A provincial official, refusing to be named said: “Installations belonging to an important oil field have been subjected to a terrorist attack from unidentified gunmen.

“The attackers targeted the electricity system linked to the field as well as the lines carrying power. The damage is estimated at more than $1 million,” the source added.

He said the authorities believe the attack is a warning for the Chinese to leave.

China was the first foreign country to have won such a lucrative foothold in the country, seen as one of the riches in oil reserves in the world.

Although representing only a modest fraction of Iraq’s oil riches, the Ahdab field was marketed as proof that security conditions have improved and foreign workers in the country would be safe.

There has been no reaction from the Chinese side but their withdrawal would squash Iraqi dreams of boosting oil production to 4.5 million barrels a day from the current 2.5 million.

The attackers, analysts say, are probably sending “a warning signal” to the Chinese for more attacks if they stay put.

Iraq hopes the development of Ahdab will add at least 900,000 barrels a day to its output.

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What Iraqis Want From Obama

And finally we have the man who many in the U.S. and the world at large wanted to see replacing George W. Bush.

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be officially inaugurated as U.S President. Bush as a person and a picture will no longer be in the Oval Office but his deeds and legacy will fill the room's air, shelves and even the drawers of Obama's desk.

And certainly, wherever Obama turns in the White House the specter of Iraq and the untold suffering of its people and the heavy price in blood and resources the U.S. has had to pay will be haunting him.

Obama has promised to end the devastating and reckless war Bush had started in Iraq. But one thing he will have to remember: starting a war is always easy; ending it is the most difficult thing to do.

I do not think any Iraqi would feel sorry for Bush, the man who ruined their country, turned millions of its people into refugees, turned hundreds thousands of its children into orphans and divided the country into ethnic and sectarian lines with wounds which some say are impossible to heal.

If Obama thinks that he is not responsible for addressing the calamities Bush brought on the Iraqi people, he is wrong. Morally and ethically, his administration is responsible for the orphans, the refugees, the chaos and insecurity which Bush will bequeath him.

Iraqis hope that instead of bombs, warplanes, heavy artillery, daily raids and invasions, killings and destroying of houses, villages and cities, Obama will try to rebuild.

Even if the troops are withdrawn, and that is the wish of many in the country, Iraqis hope Obama will commit his administration to correcting Bush's blunders. Instead of killing fathers and turning their children into orphans, Iraqis hope Obama will build factories, bridges, roads, schools and hospitals to put unemployed Iraqi parents to work.

Iraqis hope Obama will commit resources that will take care of the army of Iraqi orphans, send in relief and aid to the impoverished Iraqis instead of shipping sophisticated warplanes and helicopter gunships with the ability to drop precision bombs weighing hundreds of kilograms of explosives.

Iraqis would like to see Obama exerting real pressure on the government and Iraqi political and ethnic factions for a real compromise and not coddle them as Bush has been doing so that they would sign a hugely unpopular security agreement.

Iraqis hope Obama will work with all Iraqis groups and stand at the same distance from all of them and favor only those who are loyal to their own country and support them to lead.

Iraqis hope Obama will extend a real helping hand to the millions of Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries and elsewhere, first by helping them making ends meet and, second, encouraging them and supporting them to return to a safe Iraq.

Iraqis' wish list is long and they do not expect Obama to have it all fulfilled. Their few expectations emanate from the same principles of democracy and human rights that helped an African American win the presidential elections in the U.S.A., the world's mightiest power.

No End in Sight to Anti-Christian Violence in Mosul

The measures the government has taken so far have failed to put an end to the exodus of Christians from the northern city of Mosul.

Thousands of Christian families have fled the city following threats from unidentified groups. So far 14 Christians have been killed in the city.

Some Iraqi politicians and media have raised questions on the timing and scale of the anti-Christian campaign in a city traditionally known for its tolerance.

There are no exact figures on the numbers of Christians in Mosul but for centuries the city has been one of Christianity’s main centers in Iraq with scores of churches and monasteries some of them of great antiquity.

Iraqi Christian monks are reported to have fled the Monastery of Mar Gerwargees, the last inhabited abode in the city of an ancient order which traces its roots to the Persian Christian Saint Hormuz who was killed centuries before the birth of Islam.

There are no clear answers to who is behind the campaign to force the Christians to flee. Some local media reports, quoting government officials, blame Kurdish militias which control Mosul's left bank which has been emptied of its Christian population.

Tens of thousands of Christians from Mosul and its suburbs demonstrated when Iraqi parliament last month removed a paragraph from the constitutional which allowed Iraqi Christians and other minorities a set of seats in provincial councils.

Kurdish deputies in the parliament spearheaded the move to have the paragraph removed.

Analysts say the Kurds were shocked by Christian protests.

Who Is Driving Christians Out of Iraq?

The current plight of Christians in the northern city of Mosul is a reminder of how precarious conditions in Iraq as whole are.

At least 2,500 families have been forced to leave the city, a dozen killed and many of their houses destroyed.

Christians are not the only minority under persecution but their fleeing is being highlighted because it comes at a crucial moment for Iraq and particularly its northern region.

And therefore many have began raising questions on who would benefit from forcing thousands of families out in the open from a city which has traditionally been known for its tolerance and a mosaic of cultures, religions, sects and ethnicities.

Neither the government nor the Christians themselves have clearly specified who could be behind the current wave of persecution.

Iraq's al-Qaeda group has denied responsibility. So have all the other groups fighting U.S. occupation.

The Kurds, who keep a sizeable force of their militias known as Peshmerga in the city, have even mocked at reports implicating them in the persecution. And of course the government says it is doing its best to preserve peace and punish the perpetrators.

This newspaper blames no one but it sees that most media reports have overlooked the reality of the current situation in the Province of Nineveh of which Mosul is the capital.

Sunni Arabs are predominant in the province but they are mainly concentrated on the right bank of the Tigris River. The left bank along with a string of villages and small towns to the east, north and west of the city is a mix of peoples among them Yazidis, Shebeks, Turkmen as well as Christians.

With the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Kurdish militias occupied Yazidi, Christian and Shebek areas and moved their control as far as the left bank of Mosul.

Kurdish leaders do not hide their claims to these areas and their insistence that their inhabitants are ethnic Kurds. Kurdish leaders' tactics have turned many Christians, Yazidis, Shebeks and Tukmen against them. As for the Sunni Arabs, many of them draw parallels between Kurdish occupation of these areas and U.S. occupation of Iraq and that both must be resisted.

Calls on Kurdish militias to withdraw have fallen on deaf ears. On the contrary, they have solidified their armed presence in the Province.

Kurdish leaders are notorious for their political favoritism and tactics. In 1996, Massoud Barazani, sent a personal letter to Saddam Hussein pleading with him to send troops to fight his opponent Jalal Talabani whose militias had then spread their control over most of northern Iraq. Anyone found writing to Saddam in such beseeching and friendly terms would have certainly been covered by the government's infamous policy of debaathification.

Talabani did the same a few years later when he felt that his militia stronghold of Sulaimaniya was in danger of being overrun by the al-Qaeda-sponsored Ansar al-Islam, which had established a foot in his areas. Saddam sent advisers, money and weapons and some say even troops to help him contain the threat.

If Christians, Shebeks and Yazids vote for Kurds in the forthcoming provincial elections, the Kurds will have the upper hand in Nineveh. This might be some form of a conspiracy scenario but such scenarios are not impossible in a failed country like Iraq.

Some say Christians are partly to blame for their plight. First, they have divided themselves into 'ethnic groups' relying on their denominations. The so-called Assyrians, who say they are the descendants of the Assyrian Empire, are openly calling for an autonomous region, separate from the Kurdish and Arab areas. The so-called Chaldeans, who say they are the descendants of the ancient Chaldean Empire, have mostly aligned themselves with the Kurds at the expense of their traditional neutrality.

Christian numbers have dwindled in Iraq. Nonetheless, some of their spiritual leaders openly associate themselves with the 'Christian' West and particularly the Roman Catholic Church. The leaders of Iraqi Catholics, who are the majority, were too timid to issue a statement rejecting Pope Benedict XVI negative remarks on Islam in his 12 September 2006 lecture in Germany.

The leader of the Iraqi Catholics was promoted to a Cardinal, raising Muslim suspicions of some form of complicity.

And finally, one can mention the nature of U.S. invasion of Iraq and President George W. Bush's fundamentalist Christian base in America.

U.S. missionaries came to Iraq with the invasion, rousing Muslim fears that the troops were sent not to 'liberate' but 'proselytize'. Some of these missionaries were brutally murdered.

And instead of proselytizing, these fundamentalist evangelicals began persuading Iraqi Christians to convert. Iraqi evangelical church established roots in Baghdad and other areas among Iraqi Christians, which made many Muslims view them as collaborators of a foreign invader.

The U.S. invasion and its repercussions have dealt the heaviest blow to Christianity in Iraq in its long history which scholars trace to the 1st century A.D.

Iraqi Ministry Reopens Cases of Murdered Journalists

The Ministry of Interior has reopened the case of scores of Iraqi journalists who were either assassinated or kidnapped in the past few years, a senior ministry official said.

Lt. Gen. Abdulkarim Khalaf said Iraqi police have begun investigating at least 49 files related to Iraqi journalists killed or kidnapped in the spiral of violence that engulfed the country since the 2003-U.S. invasion.

Khalaf said the ministry was coordinating its efforts with a non-governmental body on press freedoms with the regard to all the cases which it could not pursue in the past.

Scores of Iraqi journalists have been killed or kidnapped but none of the perpetrators has ever been brought to justice.

"We have initiated investigations of almost all the crimes that have targeted Iraqi journalists and issued orders to arrest the perpetrators," Khalaf said.

He said the ministry has many suspects in detention. “Some of them have already admitted their crimes and others were still being interrogated,” he added.

At Least Saddam Protected the Rights of Religious Minorities

Iraqi legislators have revoked a paragraph in the constitution that gave a set of seats for Iraqi minorities in provincial councils.

The reason they cited was that there was no "authentic count" of the number of these minorities in the country.

But this is a baseless excuse and pretext to violate the rights of Iraqi Christians, Shebeks, Sabeans and Yazidis. There must have been other reasons which prompted the parliament to take a decision that has alienated an important and crucial component of the Iraqi society.

Iraqi minorities thought they would be treated much better than under former leader Saddam Hussein, whose regime the U.S. toppled in 2003.
But they now find themselves in far worse conditions. At least Saddam Hussein respected their religious rights and their way of worship. His regime is credited with the building of scores of churches and places of worship for all Iraqi minorities.

Today, these minorities have been worst hit by U.S. occupation and the surge in violence it caused.

To say the government lacks credible counts of Iraqi minorities is a big lie. Such counts could have easily been obtained from their religious leaders.

Moreover, conducting such a count is not that difficult given the fact that the remaining numbers of these minorities now predominantly live in northern Iraq.

For the U.S. and its puppet government everything in Iraq now either falls under the category of minority or majority.And who is a minority or majority depends on which sect, religion or ethnic group you belong to.

If your are a Shiite you see Shiite majority across the country. If you are a Kurd you see Kurdish majority even in traditional Arab heartland, and so on and so forth.

There are no credible counts in Iraq for almost everything. No one knows for sure who the majority is and who the minority is.

This applies to Arabs and Kurds. It applies to Shiites and Sunnis.

But only the weakest and powerless in the society have to pay for the lack of authentic counts.

Iraqi minorities, who thought they would be better off under a U.S.-protected government, suddenly find themselves without protection.

Militias Attacking Returning Refugees in Baquba

Many refugees who have ventured to return home following reports of relative quiet in the country have been forced to flee once again.

The restive Province of Diyala, of which Baquba is the capital, has seen most of the violence directed at returning refugees.

According to an Azzaman correspondent in Baquba, factional militias are active in the city and their attacks have even forced the heavily armed pro-U.S. Sunni militiamen to flee.

Some semblance of normalcy had returned to Diyala when Sunni tribesmen joined U.S.-financed groups of Sunni militias known as Sahwa or "Awakening." But U.S. protection of these groups is waning as Washington intends to transfer their file to the Shiite-dominated government.

Our correspondent says there has been a marked deterioration in security in Diyala, a province northeast of Baghdad extending as far as the Iranian borders.

The agricultural province is mainly Arab (93 percent) with a very small Kurdish minority (7 percent). But the Kurds are reported to be in control of about 27 percent of the province's area of 17,685 square kilometers.

Tensions between Arabs and the government on the one hand and Kurdish militias on the other have been rising recently. The Arabs dislike the increasing Kurdish presence in their areas.

But the Arabs themselves are divided along sectarian lines into Sunnis and Shiites.

A senior parliamentary Arab deputy harshly criticized the military campaigns by U.S. and Iraqi troops to subdue the province. Mohammed al-Dayni said the military forays have practically achieved nothing."

He said most of those detained during these operations were innocent people, while those fuelling and committing violence were at large.

Cholera Outbreak Spreading in Iraq

At least 1,000 people have died as a result of the recent outbreak of cholera in Iraq, Iraqi members of parliament said.

Nawzad Rifaat, chairman of parliament's Health Commission, accused the government of hiding the "the real figure of cholera cases" urging the Health Ministry to provide detailed statics on deaths and cases without delay.

Parliamentary sources said they feared the disease was already out of control and the government had failed in efforts to have it contained.

"Hospitals are crammed with the patients who may exceed 10,000 who have already been afflicted with the disease," said one member of parliament, who refused to be named.

MPs spoke of at least 1,000 deaths so far.

The outbreak of cholera, a bacterial infection causing severe diarrhea and vomiting, was initially said to have been confined to Babil Province, where at least six people had died.

Officials say thousands of cases have been reported in other provinces in addition to Babil. Hospitals in the provinces of Diyala, Najaf and Karbala were strapped for resources to treat patients.

The coverage of the diseases has terrified the country's population. Local newspapers quote unidentified Health Ministry officials as fearing that the disease had reached epidemic proportions.

Health Ministry officials disputed the figures, saying they were "exaggerated."

"The ministry is mulling the possibility of suing officials who have reported huge numbers of cases, the thing that has frightened citizens," said Ihasan Jaafar, the ministry's spokesman.

However, Jaafar declined to give figures on the number of deaths the disease has caused and the number of patients in Iraqi hospitals.

A severe form of the disease causes sudden diarrhea, leading to dehydration and death within minutes.

Contaminated water is believed to be the main cause for transmitting the disease due to rusty and broken pipes through which sometimes heavy water is carried to household taps.

Running water is very scarce in many provinces, forcing people to drink from rivers or stagnant ponds.

Last year there were more than 4,000 confirmed cholera cases in Iraq -- the vast majority in the Kurdish-controlled northern region.

Half of Baghdad Lacks Drinking Water

Baghdad's nearly six million people have access to half their needs of drinking water, said Sadeq al-Shammari head of Baghdad's Water Authority.

Shammari said practically more than three million people in Baghdad have no access to running water.

The shortage comes amid soaring temperatures which at this time of the year may brush 50 degrees centigrade.

The UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, has criticized the Iraqi authorities for spending too little on public amenities at a time government coffers are brimming with hard cash from oil sales.

"They (the government) have the resources but they are slow in investing them," said a UNICEF official who did not want his name be revealed.

Shammari described the shortage as critical, saying that conditions of Baghdad's sewage system and heavy water treatment plants were even worse.

"A few-minute interruption in power supply causes at least a three-hour interruption in drinking water," said Shammari.

Public amenities like water facilities, sewage systems and hospitals are not supposed to be covered by outages which may continue for up to 20 hours in Baghdad.

Iraqi Refugees Spurn Government Call to Come Home

Iraqi refugees in Egypt have turned down a government offer to lure them to return home.

The snub came following a call by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who has offered financial incentives to help the returning refugees resettle.

Maliki has promised to pay for travel and accommodation and retrieve property of the returnees in case it has been confiscated or being occupied by others.

But only 240 Iraqis of more than 100,000 currently living in Cairo alone have returned.

Speaking to Azzaman on the strict condition of anonymity, the refugees said those who had opted to return had serious problems with their resident permits and have had all their savings already spent.

One Iraqi refugee in Cairo said both the U.S. and the Iraqi government have lost their credibility and it has become really hard to trust anything they say.

"We cannot believe their claims that conditions are safe. Our house is gone and our relatives staying behind give us a totally different picture of the situation," the refugee who did not wish his name be revealed for security reasons said.

Another refugee who asked to be only identified as "Abu Ammar" said he felt safe in Egypt and had no intention of returning.

"Iraq has turned into something like a no man's land. It no longer belongs to its people," said one refugee.

Millions of Iraqis have fled the country in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of 2003. The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that nearly four million Iraqis have escaped the terror and insecurity U.S. occupation has caused.

The agency says nearly two million more are refugees in their own country. These internally displaced Iraqis have fled for their lives inside the country as U.S. occupation troops and the Iraqi army proceed with their military operations and ongoing invasions of cities and towns.

Marauding militias operating under the nose of U.S. occupiers and Iraqi troops are also to blame for the upsurge in insecurity.

How Many More Iraqis Can You Throw Behind Bars Without Trial?

Reports that U.S. and Iraqi government jails hold nearly 100,000 prisoners, most of them languishing there without trial and proof of wrong doing, are appalling.

Most arrests in Iraq whether by U.S. or Iraqi troops are arbitrary, carried out with little or no evidence.

The U.S. was most vociferous in its condemnation of the former regime for its arbitrary and summary arrests and inhuman conditions of its prisons.

But for many Iraqis this so-called 'beacon of democracy' has even surpassed Saddam Hussein in human rights violations.

U.S. troops can do almost everything with impunity in Iraq. They have the right to seize any one in the country merely on suspicion of 'terror' which no authority in the world can define what it really means.

And to provide enough room for its Iraqi suspects, the U.S. has built numerous prisons in the country -- perhaps its only post-war reconstruction feat.

These arrests and the fact that tens of thousands of prisoners are held without trial provide clear evidence of the shallowness of U.S. claims of democracy and human rights.

Most of the 100,000 Iraqis held in U.S. and Iraqi prisons were picked up during military operations or raids on cities, towns, villages and neighborhoods.

Most of them have not been tried and do not know why they have been jailed.

The prisons are overcrowded and filthy and according to some sources unfit even for animals.

In democratic and civilized countries like the U.S. no one is jailed unless tried and found guilty.

In U.S.-occupied Iraq every Iraqi is a suspect and can be taken to prison without trial or proof for as long as the troops deem necessary.

And if an Iraqi prisoner is released after months or years of imprisonment because U.S. or Iraqi authorities eventually found he or she was innocent, there is no one to blame or no body to resort to for compensation.

The only thing that will partly cleanse U.S. sins and those of its lackeys in Iraq is to order an immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners since the jailers cannot produce enough evidence to persuade Iraqi courts to sentence them.

These suspects are innocent and their incarceration is a massive violation of their human rights.

Fears of New Fighting as Tensions Mount Over Kirkuk

Tensions over the oil-rich Province of Kirkuk are mounting and rival factions are reportedly preparing themselves for a long and protracted armed conflict.

But the battle over Kirkuk, once ignited, will be almost impossible to extinguish.

Such a conflict would involve all the country's disparate factions and ethnic groups, particularly the Kurds who, since the U.S. invasion of 2003, have enjoyed relative quiet.

Arabs of central and southern Iraq have been fighting each other through locally raised militias and the clash of loyalties among the fledgling Iraqi troops as well as U.S. invasion troops.

With the American invasion, Arab Shiites and Sunnis resorted to guns to solve their differences. In the ensuing infighting, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are believed to have been killed or injured.

As the Arabs were fighting each other, the Kurds tried to rearm their military wing, the Peshmerga, or local militias.

The Kurds have access to 17 percent of all foreign cash Iraq gets from its oil exports which amounts to billions of dollars every year. Their militiamen, numbering 180,000, are paid by the central government.

Analysts say the Kurds have used a substantial portion of their share of the oil money to arm their militias.

But their opponents, mainly Sunni Arabs, are not defenseless.

Thanks to U.S. occupation troops, Sunni tribes in central Iraq are now heavily armed, as Washington has been using them as proxies to fight al-Qaeda.

But Arab Shiites cannot stay idle if hostilities break out. Most of Iraqi Turkmen who oppose Kurdish control of Kirkuk are Shiites and so are many Arab tribes in the province.

Signs of infighting are in the air, with Arab tribal chieftains threatening to resort to arms in order not to let the Kurds control the oil-rich province.

Similar threats have come from Kurdish Peshmerga and political leaders. Kurdish militias are conspicuously deployed in Kirkuk, the provincial center, while Kurdish leaders object to the deployment of Iraqi troops in the city.

The U.S. has raised a fully equipped army of Sunni tribesmen, the militia known locally as Majalis al-Sahwa or Awakening Councils.

The leaders of these councils have warned of grave consequences if they moved ahead with their annexation plans.

Sheikh Hussein al-Jibouri, a high-ranking Sunni tribal chieftain whose tribesmen the U.S. arms and finances, said Arabs will not stand by if the Kurds officially add the oil-rich territory to their autonomous region.

"The Arabs' patience is wearing thin. If they (the Arabs) are forced for a confrontation they know how to do it … We are prepared and have the means and the capabilities," Jibouri warned.

Another senior Sunni Arab tribal leader issued a similar warning.

Ali al-Sulaiman, a leader of the powerful Awakening Council of the once restive Province of Anbar, advised the Kurds not to ever think that they can have their sway over Kirkuk.

He said any Kurdish attempt to annex Kirkuk would lead to 'catastrophic consequences."

But the Kurds have said they will settle for no less than "full annexation" and for them Kirkuk is the 'Jerusalem" that cannot be compromised.

Iraqi Ministry Doctors Figures on Power Output

It is lie, lie, lie. That has been the world of Iraq before and after U.S. invasion troops landed in the land of Twin Rivers.

The stream of lies has been flowing without interruption and it is no longer the exclusive property of the White House and U.S. administration of Iraq.

It has infected all branches of Iraqi government U.S. invasion troops have installed to govern the country. It is no longer a matter of weapons of mass destruction or former regime's ties with al-Qaeda.

It concerns all aspects of life and the last institution to enter the fray has been the Ministry of Electricity.

The figures given by the ministry on power output have been doctored for reasons which perhaps nobody can fathom.

After a lot of bragging and boasting by the U.S. and Iraqi government that the ministry has exceeded output figures prevalent in the months before the invasion we are now to learn that was yet another big lie.

Total power production, Electricity Ministry officials reveal, has never broken the record set by the former regime when still under punitive U.N. trade sanctions.

Power output currently available to Iraqis is still at least 10 percent less than what was available in the three months before the U.S. invasion.

So the 'new Iraq' has never been able to beat the nearly 5,000 megawatts that were produced before the coming of the Americans.

Maximum output in the years since the U.S. invasion has been in the range of 4,700 megawatts despite the surge in demand.

The ministry doctored the figures by adding power imports of nearly 300 megawatts to domestic output and some other figures which only God knows why and how they were added to announce that production had surpassed 6,000 megawatts.

US-Backed Iraqi Gov Fires Thousands of Cops and Soldiers who Refused to Fight Sadr

Interior Minister Jawad Boulani has ordered the dismissal of thousands of police members and officers who allegedly refused orders to take part in the fight against the militiamen of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The decision covers most of the police force in the predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and also several cities in the southern Iraq including Basra where most of the recent fighting took place.

The government's crackdown on Mahdi Army, the military arm of the Sadr movement in the country, which started a few days ago, came to a halt yesterday.

Several cities in southern Iraq, among them Baghdad and Basra, were placed under tight curfews as battles between the militiamen and government troops raged.

U.S. occupation troops backed the government in its bid to disarm the militias.

But the Mahdi Army has once again emerged intact as the ceasefire announced yesterday does not call for the militiamen to surrender their weapons.

Thousands of police officers were reported to have refused fighting the militiamen and at least two army regiments joined them with their weapons in Baghdad.

More troops were said to have sided with the militiamen in Basra.

The move to sack police and army personnel sympathizing with Sadr is a risky step as it might derail the already fragile ceasefire.

The exact numbers of those who are covered by the move are not known but analysts say they should involve thousands of police officers and troops.

The analysts say those sacked will have no choice but to join the ranks of the Mahdi Army with their weapons, boosting the militia's strength and standing.

The recent fighting is said to have claimed more than 240 lives in the country since fighting began on Tuesday.

Half of Baghdad Still Without Water

Power failures and maintenance have disrupted running water supplies to almost half of the capital, Baghdad, home to nearly 6 million people.

A Baghdad Municipality source said the project supplying drinking water to Rasafa, the eastern half of Baghdad, was temporarily idle.

The source, refusing to be named, said running water supplies may not resume for a few days.

He attributed the stoppage, which has caused large-scale popular resentment, to blackouts which have recently even affected essential utilities like water.

The stoppage has led to the closure of bakeries and restaurants in Rasafa, aggravating the suffering of Baghdad residents.

Water resumed intermittently and in inadequate quantities through household taps for half a day after a three-stoppage on Thursday. Then the taps dried once again.