New Threats Made Against Iraqi Leader

06-23-04 - (Baghdad, Iraq-AP) An official in the Iraqi prime minister's office says a threat to assassinate the new leader won't derail the June 30th handover of power.

The official says Iraq's path to democracy and freedom will not be stopped.

An audio recording purportedly made by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi implies that his group has already targeted Iyad Allawi. The voice says they'll continue "until the end."

The tape was found today on an Islamic Web site known as a clearing house for statements and videos from al-Qaida and other extremist groups. The voice on the tape says the fight against "infidels" would continue "until Islamic rule is back on earth."

Meanwhile, top followers of a radical Shiite cleric in Iraq have turned down an invitation to take part in a national conference. The meeting aims to select the council that will advise the new government.

Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr were invited to attend the session, which is supposed to bring together members of all segments of Iraqi society. A spokesman for al-Sadr says the invitation was turned down because his thousands of followers are being offered what he views as a "token role."

Al-Sadr himself was not invited because there's a warrant out for his arrest. His militia had been locked in a battle with coalition forces until a shaky truce was reached.