Protests against insurgency began last week in several Iraqi cities

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

For the first time since the fall of the Saddam regime, Iraqis are taking to the streets to support democracy in their country.

The demonstrations began last week in Baghdad when tens of thousands of Iraqis expressed their opposition to violence and support for democracy. The demonstrators appeared to cross religious and ethnic lines and vowed to block the return of the Saddam regime.

The rallies against the Sunni insurgency were held in several cities across central Iraq. In some demonstrations, prominent Iraqis pledged to fight for democracy regardless of the U.S. military presence in their country.

[On Sunday, up to 20 people were killed in a car bombing in the Sunni town of Khaldiyah, west of Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. The attack took place outside an Iraqi police station.]

The United States has announced plans to transfer sovereignty to an Iraqi governing body by July 1, 2004. Iraq also seeks to draft a constitution in 2005.

Organizers said many Sunnis and other Iraqis fear a takeover by elements from the old Saddam regime. They said former members of the Saddam regime were seen returning to municipal councils and security forces.

In the Babel governorate, hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated against candidates deemed as holdovers from the Saddam regime. The Iraqi protesters said the candidates were selected by the U.S.-led coalition.

At the same time, the United States has tried to promote democracy in Iraq through a range of programs. In one program, 200 prominent Iraqis, including tribal leaders, have been studying democratic principles under coalition supervision. Most of the participants were said to be Shi'ites.

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