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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Conference Postponed Amid Fraud Allegations

The gathering to choose an interim national assembly is delayed for two weeks. Three sons of a provincial governor are kidnapped.

July 30, 2004|Alissa J. Rubin and Raheem Salman | Special to The Times

In a separate hostage development, the militant group that seized seven truck drivers last week threatened to kill one of the hostages by this evening unless its demands were met. The group calling itself the "Holders of the Black Banners" has asked that the Kuwaiti company that employed the drivers cease all work for the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, there were negative signals on the support that Iraqi and U.S. troops can expect from other countries.

In Kiev, Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk announced that Ukraine was holding talks with the U.S. and Poland about an eventual phaseout of 1,600 Ukrainian troops deployed in Wasit province, which is southeast of Baghdad and along the Iranian border.

"We have started talks with our partners -- Poland and the United States -- to set a time frame. We cannot stay there for a long time, without a concrete time frame," Marchuk said at a news conference.

The deployment has been deeply unpopular in Ukraine, where many political analysts have linked the troops to President Leonid D. Kuchma's attempt to shore up support in the U.S. after revelations that in July 2000 he approved the transfer of a radar system to Hussein's Iraq.

Six Ukrainian troops have been killed in Iraq and 15 others injured. Ukraine has been rocked by a news report that a Ukrainian soldier told human rights commissioner Nina Karpacheva that he had been "tortured" for misbehavior in Iraq.

Times staff writer Rubin reported from Baghdad and special correspondent Salman from Ramadi. Times staff writers Mark Mazzetti and Edmund Sanders in Baghdad and Kim Murphy in Moscow contributed to this report.

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