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All Iraq will vote in January, officials insist

Elections will take place throughout Iraq in January with no exceptions, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday, contradicting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's suggestion that the first democratic poll may not be held in some regions controlled by insurgents.

"We will have the elections. All Iraq is eligible to be part of the elections, will be part of the elections. The elections should take place in all the country," Allawi told the Washington Post on Friday.

Powell, in New York for U.N. meetings, said there is "no reason" to believe Iraq should not hold a "full, free and fair election" for a 275-member national assembly by the end of January, a position echoed by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in testimony on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, Rumsfeld told a congressional committee that if violence in Iraq prevented polling in some parts of the country, "Well, so be it."

PLEA TO U.N.: Allawi appealed to world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly on Friday to unite behind his country's effort to rein in spiraling violence and lighten the country's foreign debt and broaden support for coalition forces to improve security ahead of the January elections.

3 more Navy SEALs charged in inmate abuse

WASHINGTON _ Three more members of the Navy SEALs have been charged with abusing Iraqi detainees, two of whom died in American custody in Iraq after they were beaten, Navy officials said Friday. One detainee died at Abu Ghraib prison and the other at an Army base near Mosul.

The new charges bring to seven the members of Navy Special Operations who now face criminal charges in connection with the widening prisoner-abuse scandal. On Sept. 3, the Navy announced charges against three SEAL commandos and another sailor attached to their team. All seven sailors were assigned to SEAL Team 7, based in Coronado, Calif., a Navy official said.

The charges announced Friday against the three men, who were not identified, included assault with intent to cause death and serious bodily harm, assault with a dangerous weapon, maltreatment of detainees, obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty, according to a Navy statement.

While none of the seven has been charged with manslaughter or homicide, investigators have linked some of them to at least two detainee deaths in Iraq, in November 2003 and April 2004, Navy officials said.

Charges against Chalabi dropped for now, at least

BAGHDAD _ A judge has dismissed counterfeiting charges against a senior political figure once considered a front-runner to become Iraq's leader, authorities said Friday.

The charges against Ahmad Chalabi, a wealthy Iraqi exile and onetime Pentagon favorite, were dismissed "for lack of evidence," said Zuhair al-Maliky, Iraq's chief investigative judge.

Al-Maliky told the Associated Press that the charges could be refiled, however, should more evidence be uncovered. The decision to drop the case was made during a court session Thursday. Chalabi has denied any wrongdoing.

Lethal hepatitis outbreak reported in two areas

BAGHDAD _ A virulent form of hepatitis that is especially lethal for pregnant women has broken out in two of Iraq's most troubled districts, Iraqi Health Ministry officials said this week, and they warned that a collapse of water and sewage systems during the continuing violence is probably at the root of the outbreak.

The disease, hepatitis E, is caused by a virus that is often spread by sewage-contaminated drinking water. In Sadr City, a Baghdad slum that for months has been convulsed by gunbattles between a local militia and U.S. troops, the officials said as many as 155 cases had turned up.

The second outbreak is in Mahmudiyah, a town 35 miles south of Baghdad that is known as much for its kidnappings and drive-by shootings as for its poverty, where there are an estimated 60 cases. At least nine pregnant women are believed to have been infected, and one has died. Five deaths have been reported overall.