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Biden goes to Iraq over election concerns

  |   Jan. 22, 2010 at 12:56 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Iraq to try to save a deteriorating situation ahead of parliamentary elections, administration officials said.

Officials said Thursday Biden's visit demonstrated U.S. concern the disqualification of 511 candidates could ramp up sectarian violence and undermine elections in March, The Washington Post reported Friday.

If Americans "fail in guaranteeing democracy, they should leave right away from Iraq, because their presence means nothing," Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni lawmaker now barred from running, told the Post. "If they can't protect democracy, then what are they here for?"

On Thursday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said he welcomed Biden's visit, but warned Iraqi government would not bow to U.S. pressure.

"We are an independent country and will not receive orders from anyone, whether it is a brotherly Arab country, a neighboring country or a friend," Talabani said. "Mr. Biden made proposals, but we are committed to safeguard and uphold this constitution."

U.S. officials have said rooting out Baathists -- members of the same party as deposed leader Saddam Hussein -- from public office should be done in a transparent manner, the Post said. In addition, the officials have voiced concern about the scope and timing of the disqualifications.

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