Throughout Iraq, legislators, armed factions and former members of Saddam Hussein's regime were trying Tuesday to bolster themselves for the scheduled fall provincial elections.
The government hasn't set an election date, but Iraqis of all persuasions think the process could reshape the political landscape.
In one day, a key former member of Saddam's regime who has eluded capture purportedly released an audio message for the first time, demanding that his followers not be ignored. Meanwhile, in parliament, Kurdish legislators walked out of a session after rival sects suggested that a key northern province shouldn't vote this fall.
In an audiotape purportedly by Iraq's former military commander and vice president under Saddam's regime, Izzat al-Douri told President Bush this would be a “decisive year.”
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Al-Douri, who became the leader of the Baath Party after Saddam was executed in December 2006, told Bush that “the Iraqi people will fight you until doomsday.” He demanded that Bush withdraw American troops and called on him to reveal the true U.S. troop death toll, suggesting the U.S. military has withheld information.
He also criticized firebrand Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and al-Qaida. His messages probably were aimed less at Bush and more to rally his troops, who have been beleaguered as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has gained more of his constituents' confidence.
Hours after an attack on Iraqi army recruiting station, parliament began debating when to hold provincial elections.
Some members proposed that every province but Kirkuk vote this fall, calling the security situation there too volatile. Kurdish members walked out.