[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Power struggle in Iraqi town

By David Loyn
BBC World Affairs correspondent in Kut, eastern Iraq

US forces in the eastern Iraqi city of Kut are holding talks with local leaders to try to resolve a dispute over who is in power after the town hall was taken over by an Iranian-backed Muslim cleric.

The Americans believe that he does not have popular support and are now trying to dislodge him.

Syed Abbas
Syed Abbas claims the support of thousands
The political situation in Kut is inflamed by the proximity of the Iranian border.

There are no American forces at the border posts and people are crossing into Iraq at will.

A local Shia holy man, Syed Abbas, who is clearly well-funded, has taken over the town hall and is backed by thousands of loyal supporters who have staged rallies every day.

But the Americans believe that he does not represent a majority here.

US unpopularity

The situation is very tense as the marines are holding a meeting with tribal elders.

Marines have physically threatened reporters who try to get close to the meeting.

Across many cities in the highly-populated centre and east of Iraq, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the message to the Americans has been the same - now you have got rid of Saddam, you too should leave.

Two days ago, in Diwaniyah, at least two people were shot in riots which followed an attempt by marines to impose a leader.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific