Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Hashemi’s trial date set

Raman Brusk reports for AKnews:

The Independent Supreme Judiciary Council of Iraq has set May 3 for the first trail session of Iraqi Vice President Tareq Hashemi, who is accused of terrorism charges.

Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Beiraqdar said the Central Criminal Court will investigate the case of Hashemi and his secretary and son-in-law Ahmed Qahtan.

It will be a public trial and will be held in the absence of Hashemi and Qahtan if need be.

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Green Zone empties out under Iraqi control

Dan Morse reports for the Washington Post:

Green Zone. International Zone. The Bubble. To the foreigners still living there, the Iraqi capital’s fortified center has a new name: Ghost Town.

The Iraqi government has taken full control of the former heart of the American occupation. It decides who gets past the 17-foot-tall concrete blast walls encircling the zone.

On the inside, Iraqi police and military forces have raided the offices of private security companies, prompting the firms and commercial companies that rely on them to relocate.

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Iraq VP Hashemi reasserts innocence

Lara Jakes and Yahya Barzanji report for the Associated Press:

Iraq's Sunni vice president on Monday asked for popular support to fight government charges that he commandeered death squads and said he would continue to defy arrest with the help of the nation's powerful Kurds in a showdown that tests the limits of Baghdad's reach.

The government's case against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi deepens tensions in a country still splintered by Sunni and Shiite sectarian rivalries. It now also threatens to draw a new wedge between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and Kurdish leaders in Iraq's north who refuse to hand over al-Hashemi for trial.

In a half-hour speech from the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north, al-Hashemi described the charges against him as "politically motivated" and said he would not return to Baghdad.

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Efforts underway to restore Babylon

Jane Arraf reports for Al Jazeera:

The whims of a dictator, war, and salt water erosion have all contributed to the deterioration of one of the wonders of the ancient world in Iraq.

Babylon, built about 3,879 years ago, suffered under the weight of Saddam Hussein's 1980s emulation of King Nebuchadnezzar, building his own palace on top of Babylon's north palace. The weight of modern stones, concrete, and erosion caused by new salt water canals near the ancient palace have caused great damage to the site.

The structural and environmental impact of Saddam's palace coupled with poor attempts at restoration twice kept Babylon from being recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site.

During the US occupation, the ancient city was home to US and Polish troops whose trucks and helicopters further damaged the one-time centre of astronomy, science, and culture.

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf reports from Baghdad on efforts to restore this wonder of the ancient world.

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Three policemen killed in Ramadi attacks

Ali al-Qaisi reports for AKnews:

Three policemen, among them two officers, were killed in two attacks in the volatile Anbar province, west of Baghdad, today.

In the first attack a police interrogator was killed by a group of gunmen who stormed his house in al-Qaim city, on the Syrian border, west of Anbar.

The gunmen set the house on fire, according to Capt. Nihad Farhan of Ramadi Police.

In the second attack a police officer and one of his guards were killed when a homemade bomb placed in his car went off in Ramadi city, Farhan added.

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New political balance for Iraq Parliament

Reidar Visser writes on Iraq and Gulf Analysis:

Subsequent to the resumption of meaningful parliamentary business in November 2010 – 8 months after the parliamentary elections in March that year – the Iraqi national assembly has seen a string of replacements of candidates for a variety of reasons, as well as cases of very public defections from some of the biggest entities in parliament.

With a showdown about the annual budget right around the corner, it makes sense to take stock of the new political balance.

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15 killed in Baghdad bombing

Tim Arango reports for the New York Times:

A suicide car bomber struck at the gates of Baghdad’s police academy on Sunday afternoon as recruits were leaving the compound, ending weeks of relative calm here after a particularly violent January.

The attack killed 15 people and wounded 21, according to an official at the Interior Ministry, and several of the dead were police recruits, a common target for insurgents. Differing accountings of casualties often emerge after attacks, and The Associated Press reported a higher death toll — 20 killed and 28 wounded.

The police academy, on the northeastern edge of the capital, is next to the fortified home for many American advisers and support staff members who oversee the State Department’s training program for the Iraqi police. No Americans were wounded, officials said.

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Two killed and five wounded in Ramadi

Anwar Msarbat reports for AKnews:

One person was killed and two others were left wounded after an armed group attacked a policeman's house in al-Bubali Island, to the east of Ramadi, today.

The son of the targeted police major, who has yet to be named, was killed and two other members of his family were wounded. 1st Lt. Jumaa al-Dalimi said the gunmen used rifles and hand grenades.

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U.N. call to aid Iraq’s Iranian refugees

Martin Kobler, the U.N. secretary general's special envoy to Iraq, writes in the New York Times:

After decades of dictatorship followed by invasion and conflict, Iraqis began this year with a chance to build a peaceful future. If not managed carefully, however, a lingering issue from the past could stain this moment of opportunity with tragedy.

I am referring to the situation of Camp Ashraf, where a tense standoff has persisted between the government of Iraq and an Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), which for the last 25 years has occupied a self-enclosed camp only a few hours drive from Baghdad.

...

There should be no confusion about the stance of the United Nations. We support only a peaceful, humanitarian solution for Camp Ashraf. We have been working hard to facilitate such an outcome — one that both respects Iraq’s sovereignty and provides the people of Camp Ashraf with a safe and voluntary path to a more hopeful life outside of Iraq.

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Iraqis aid rebels in Syria

Tim Arango reports for the New York Times:

Not so long ago, Syrians worked to send weapons and fighters into Iraq to help Sunnis fighting a sectarian conflict; suddenly, it is the other way around.

A belated celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on the outskirts of this western Iraqi city on Saturday quickly took on the trappings of a rally for Syria’s rebels. Young boys waved the old green, black and white flag Syria adopted in the 1930s after declaring independence from the French. Others collected money to send aid and weapons to the fighters opposing President Bashar al-Assad’s government across the border.

“I wish I could go there with my gun and fight,” said Sheik Hamid al-Hais, a tribal leader interviewed at his compound in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province.

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