• PERSIAN GULF \ Jan 19, 2005
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    Abducted Catholic Archbishop Freed In Iraq
Abducted Catholic Archbishop Freed In Iraq Pope John Paul II, who had prayed for the archbishop's safe return, was immediately informed of the release, the papal spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said in a statement.

?Thank God for the happy conclusion,? it added.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi interior minister issued a dire forecast on Tuesday, saying that unless enough people vote in the elections on Jan. 30, there would be a civil war.

?If there are not good elections, we won't have a constitution and there will be chaos and we will have a civil war,? said Falah Hassan al-Naqib, at a news conference in the heavily fortified Interior Ministry. Gunfire rattled behind him nearly the whole time he spoke.

John D. Negroponte, the American ambassador to Iraq, said he was confident that ?elections can and will be conducted successfully.? But he acknowledged that there was no sign the vote would quell the insurgency or that the Americans have any real knowledge of how many people have joined guerilla ranks.

?I'm not sure anybody has a handle on the size of the insurgency,? Negroponte said at a luncheon Tuesday with reporters. ?I'm reluctant to put a number on the size of the insurgency.?

Among American and Iraqi officials, estimates of the number of insurgents have fluctuated wildly, from the thousands, as the Pentagon has said, to hundreds of thousands, as many Iraqi officials believe.

On Tuesday, the insurgency ground on, with an Iraqi army officer assassinated in Basra and a suicide bomber striking the Baghdad political headquarters of one of the most popular Shiite political parties.

The familiar residue of charred car parts and spilled motor oil littered the streets in front of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq office, where one person was killed and one injured by the blast, according to officers of the party, known as SCIRI.

?The car tried to burst into the building but the brave guards faced it,? said Reza Jawad Taki, a SCIRI officer. ?We accuse former regime loyalists.?

Also Tuesday, a videotape surfaced showing eight Chinese construction workers held hostage by gunmen in the latest episode of targeted abductions.

The workers went missing last week while traveling to Jordan and may have been working with American troops, according to The Associated Press.

Naquib, the interior minister, said that from the beginning there had been a conspiracy to undermine the reformulation of Iraq and that it may only get worse.

?Certain religious and political groups ? Iraqis, but helped by others ? are trying to fragment this country,? he said. ?It's treason if you don't vote because it will arouse a civil war.?