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Briefs (left)

Iraq’s Election Will Not End
Violence, Bush Says

By Elisabeth Bumiller

President Bush hailed Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary election as a “remarkable event in the Arab world” in a speech here on Monday. But he said that the voting would not bring an end to violence and that Iraq was still threatened by Iran, Syria and its own religious and ethnic tensions.

For the first time, the president also put a number on the approximate numbers of Iraqis killed — 30,000 he said — since the beginning of the American-led invasion in March 2003. Bush gave out the number during a rare question-and-answer session after the speech.

“How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war?” the president said in response to the first question from members of the World Affairs Council, the host of the event. “I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We’ve lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq.”

White House officials said that Bush based the number on public estimates of the death toll, not on an internal government accounting, and was not breaking down the numbers into civilian and military deaths. Iraq Body Count, a group that tracks Iraqi civilian deaths, listed them as being between 27,383 and 30,892 on its Web site on Monday.

Iraq Prison Raid Turns Up New
Case of Mistreatment

By Edward Wong

American and Iraqi forces raiding an Iraqi government detention center last Thursday in Baghdad discovered more than 600 prisoners packed into a cramped space, 13 of them mistreated so badly they had to be taken to a hospital, a senior American official said early Monday.

The raid was the second in the past month in which American forces have uncovered mistreatment of prisoners at the hands of Interior Ministry officials. On Nov. 15, soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division, charged with controlling Baghdad, entered a ministry bunker in central Baghdad and found 169 malnourished prisoners, some of them tortured. Most of those prisoners were Sunni Arabs.

The detention center raided Thursday, situated to the east of the Tigris River, is run by a commando unit from the Interior Ministry, which oversees the country’s police forces, said the senior American official, Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, a spokesman for the American detention system in Iraq.

OPEC Production Levels Unchanged

By Jad Mouawad

OPEC decided Monday to keep its current production levels unchanged for now but hinted that it would consider paring its output early next year if it expected a drop in demand next spring.

OPEC’s signal was the strongest in recent months that it did not intend to let oil prices fall, and that was all the encouragement oil markets needed to push up oil prices again on Monday.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil rose $1.91, to $61.30, a barrel. Since touching a high of about $70 a barrel at the end of August, the day after Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, oil prices had fallen more than $15. Recently, they have hovered below $60 a barrel.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to meet again on Jan. 31, two months ahead of a previously scheduled meeting, to consider cuts in output in the spring, when demand typically falls after the winter surge. Demand usually picks up again with the summer driving season.