March 17 Events in Iraq
Basrah. Hundreds of students poured into the streets of Basrah to protest opposition by an Islamic group to a student-sponsored event on the outskirts of town.
Baghdad. Survey shows Iraqis attached to Islam but rejecting Sharia. US-sponsored opinion survey in Iraq reveals the following: 22.3% want to preserve Iraq's Muslim identity in the Constitution; 13.8% want to see Human Rights guaranteed and 4.4% want Sharia law. 48% of Iraqis surveyed believe there is a role for religion in the state while 44.3% do not. 46.5% believe that Iraqi clerics will make an important contribution to the drafting of the Constitution while only 15.5% believe the contribution of Iraq's political parties or the Prime Minister will be important.
Baghdad. Kurdish negotiators return to Baghdad to continue talks with UIA on the formation of a new government. Fouad Kamal, a Kurdish negotiator says, Our brothers of the UIA have accepted our demands concerning Kirkuk and the non-integration of Peshmerga fighters with the Iraqi Army.
Nassiriyah. A shepherd was killed by an anti-personnel mine placed by Anglo-American forces in spring 2003.
Washington. Enlistment contracts to be extended. The US military has asked Congress to extend enlistment contracts from 6 to 8 years due to recruitment difficulties. General Franklin Hagenbeck testified before Congress that Army and National Guard recruitment targets may not be met even with the extension.
Sofia. Bulgaria to reduce contingent. Bulgarian Defense Minister Nicolas Svinarov announced a reduction of his country's 462-man contingent in Iraq by 370 without indicating a date. Yesterday Bulgaria's newspapers were unanimous in demanding a troop withdrawal before the year is out. President Bush has not yet apologized to Bulgarian Premier Siméon de Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha for a friendly fire incident on 4 March which killed a Bulgarian serviceman.
Baghdad. Five Iraqis, including two soldiers, were killed in attacks north of Baghdad as the bodies of three other persons were found.
22:53 Mosul. Car bomb kills 2, wounds 15, including six US soldiers.
20:21 New York. Light crude hits a record $57.60 per barrel.
19:30 Baghdad. Sunni Imam assassinated. Abdel Rahim Samarrai was shot to death outside the Thulal Noukatain mosque in east Baghdad's Jadida district. The assassins fled by car.
17:01 Rome. Berlusconi rejects report to parliament. There are no new elements in what I've been saying that need to be justified in front of the Chamber of Deputies. I repeated on TV that the possibility of a reduction in the multinational force and therefore of the Italian contingent must first be discussed with the allies...Our position is in perfect alignment with that of our main allies which whom we made a [military] commitment in Iraq.
15:41 Rome. Berlusconi blames leftist-inspired disinformation campaign for twisting his words on pullout. I spoke with the President of the United States and I told him: George, things are just the way they were. I haven't issued a retraction; all the confusion was created by the press, which is devoid of intellectual honesty. It is impossible to see any turnaround, any change or any lack of consistency in what I've been saying to the allies. It's a complete invention caused by a disinformation campaign from the left. We won't be there forever...We're in Iraq to bring freedom and security to the Iraqi people.
15:14 Rome. Italian Opposition Leader Prodi demands clarification from Berlusconi. Prodi calls on Berlusconi to appear before Italian parliament. The Italian people deserve to know what the government intends to do in the future. We can't continue hearing on one day that the troops will be withdrawn and a denial on the next.
14:27 Rome. Premier Berlusconi reports to the Italian President on contacts he has had with other nations following his declarations on Italy's Iraq military mission.
11:55 Colleferro. Italian pacifists hold sit-in at cluster bomb factory. Protesters blocked the access to the Simmel Difesa works in Colleferro which cluster bombs are manufactured.
11:51 Baghdad. Negroponte leaves Baghdad for new appointment. US Ambassador John Negroponte leaves Baghdad for new appoinntment in Washington. He is replaced by James F. Jeffrey.
11:48 Baghdad. Spanish hostage released. A Spanish businessman of Iraqi origin is released after his family pays a ransom.
02:53 Baghdad. Roadside bomb kills US soldier.