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Iraq Transition

Purported al-Zarqawi tape: Democracy a lie

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
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(CNN) -- An Internet recording claiming to be from wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi condemned democracy as "the big American lie" on Sunday and said participants in Iraq's January 30 election are enemies of Islam.

The authenticity of the message could not immediately be confirmed by CNN.

"We have declared a bitter war against democracy and all those who seek to enact it," said the speaker in the 35-minute message.

"Democracy is also based on the right to choose your religion," he said, and that is "against the rule of God."

The message was posted on two Islamist Web sites that have carried previous messages thought to be from al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi heads an insurgent group believed responsible for numerous car bombings and beheadings throughout Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi recently renamed his group from Unification and Jihad to al Qaeda in Iraq. The United States has placed $25 million bounties on al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden, whose recent taped messages have endorsed al-Zarqawi's acts of terrorism. (Full story)

The speaker attacked the Iraqi interim government as a tool used by the "Americans to promote this lie that is called democracy ... You have to be careful of the enemy's plots that involve applying democracy in your country and confront these plots, because they only want to do so to ... give the rejectionists the rule of Iraq. And after fighting the Baathists ... and the Sunnis, they will spread their insidious beliefs, and Baghdad and all the Sunni areas will become Shiite. Even now, the signs of infidelity and polytheism are on the rise."

The speaker said that 4 million Iranians had entered Iraq to vote in the coming elections.

"Oh, people of Iraq, where is your honor?" he asked. "Have you accepted oppression of the crusader harlots ... and the rejectionist pigs?"

"For all these issues, we declared war against, and whoever helps promote this and all those candidates, as well as the voters, are also part of this, and are considered enemies of God," the tape said.

On Friday, a video posted on an Islamist Web site showed two Iraqis apparently being beheaded on a city sidewalk. In the past, the Web site has shown video verified as having been produced by a group led by al-Zarqawi. CNN could not confirm the authenticity of the video.

In the 10-minute video, the two men tell their kidnappers that they drove truckloads of food and supplies to a U.S. base in the central Iraqi town of Ramadi.

Election details released

Extraordinary security measures, including a ban on weapons, restrictions on who may drive and a curfew, will be in place before and during elections on January 30, a top Iraqi official said Saturday.

"The government's goal is to provide a secure Iraq," Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said. "We have taken all necessary procedures to secure this purpose. All our security forces have been put on alert ... all citizens should abide by these rules and measures."

Also, Baghdad's airport will be closed on January 29 and 30, al-Naqib said.

January 29, 30 and 31 have been declared holidays in Iraq, the minister said. Many areas will have a curfew from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. on those days and anyone in violation will be arrested, he said.

Anyone carrying a weapon will be arrested and the weapon confiscated, he said.

Iraq's borders will be closed except to Iraqis returning from the annual hajj pilgrimage, the minister said. No transfer between provinces will be permitted.

Other developments

  • The United States is looking into a published report that $300 million in cash was taken from Iraq's Central Bank and flown to Lebanon to purchase weapons from a mysterious source, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on Sunday. Information about the flight was reported in Saturday editions of the New York Times, which cited Iraqi officials.
  • A fire broke out Sunday in the al-Nasiriyah general hospital, killing at least 13 people and wounding more than 80 others, a Nasiriyah government official told CNN. The fire was due to an electrical fault, as technicians forgot to switch off the hospital's main generator, causing the fire to begin in the generator. Nasiriyah is about 320km (200 miles) south of Baghdad.
  • Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara said Sunday if insurgents are crossing Syria's border with Iraq to battle U.S. and Iraqi government forces, they do so without the blessing of his government. U.S. officials assert that Syria is cooperating with terrorists, allowing some to cross the border with impunity. "If they cross any bordering state to Iraq, it is against the will of the government of Syria," al-Shara said on CNN's "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer. Asked if the Syrian government was cooperating with insurgents, al-Shara said, "Not at all."
  • Two U.S. soldiers with the 1st Cavalry Division were convicted and sentenced Saturday in the death of a civilian female interpreter who was shot in the head in November, the U.S. military said in statements.
  • Top Iraqi officials disputed reports that former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi would be arrested soon, despite Defense Minister Hazem Sha'alan's claim Friday that Chalabi, a political rival, would be taken into custody by Interpol. (Full story)
  • Eight Chinese hostages held by a group calling itself the "Islamic Resistance Movement" in Iraq have been freed, an official from the Chinese Embassy said Saturday. (Full story)
  • A Brazilian contractor is missing after an incident a few days ago in which an Iraqi driver and a British security guard were killed, a Brazilian Foreign Ministry official told CNN on Saturday.
  • CNN's David Ensor, Octavia Nasr, Cal Perry, Auday Sadik and Mohammad Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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