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Shias critical of US peace map

Najaf, Nov. 26 (Reuters): Iraq’s top Shia religious authority has criticised US plans for transfer of power to Iraqis as incomplete and paying too little heed to Islam, a Shia politician said today.

Resistance from the cleric, Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, could lead to rejection by many of the Shias who make up 60 per cent of Iraq’s population. But Sistani appeared to have stopped short of any outright dismissal of the programme.

British foreign secretary Jack Straw, speaking hours after guerrillas fired rockets at the Baghdad coalition compound where he was staying, said the plans for transfer of power by July 2004 and polls by the end of 2005 would only improve security.

As US forces keep up the search for Saddam, a military spokesman said they had detained a wife and daughter of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the second most-wanted man in Iraq, who has been accused of coordinating anti-US attacks.

Lieutenant Colonel William MacDonald, spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, said the two women, along with a son of Ibrahim’s doctor, were caught during a raid in the town of Samarra yesterday morning.

MacDonald said there was no indication the former Iraqi general was in the area at the time. Last week, US forces put a bounty of $10 million on the head of Ibrahim as they stepped up the hunt for a man seen as one of Saddam’s closest henchmen.

In the holy city of Najaf, Abdul-Aziz Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) said Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, widely revered as Iraq’s most influential Shia leader, believed the new US-backed roadmap was flawed.

Hakim told a news conference he had met Sistani, who rarely makes public pronouncements on politics, to discuss the plan. “He didn’t find anything that assures Islamic identity,” Hakimn said.

Al Qaida suspect held

Yemen’s security forces yesterday detained a top al Qaida suspect who had evaded arrest despite heading the Arab state’s wanted list for nearly two years.

The official Yemeni news agency, Saba, said Mohammad Hamdi alAhdal, also known as Abu Asem alMacci, surrendered to police after they surrounded a house in the capital, Sanaa.

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