Reporters on the Job

Am I in Baghdad? To meet with the Rev. Cannon Andrew White, who is Middle East envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury (page 1), correspondent Nicholas Blanford made his first visit - and probably his last, he says - to the former palace that is headquarters for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

"Journalists are not allowed in," Nick says. "So I met Canon White on the roundabout before the closed-off July 14 Bridge and came in as his guest. What I entered was a separate world - it wasn't an island of tranquillity, but it's removed from the city beyond its gates."

The palace form - vast rooms of marble and glass - was vintage Saddam. But the function was distinctly post-invasion. "The dormitory for all the staff is the former throne room. On one wall is an enormous mural of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, while on another is a larger-than-life depiction of Scud missiles taking flight. Those frame hundreds of beds that are placed in distinctly unmilitary style wherever their owners can find some space."

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Nick also saw touches of home: "The walls of the corridor to the dining area were covered with letters and Valentines from US schoolchildren, thanking those in Iraq for their service."

Don't Judge a Book ... Looks can be deceiving in Iran, as Scott Peterson found at Friday's election (this page). At one polling station, he photographed a mother in a black chador (below). Scott assumed that she, like many dressed so conservatively, was heeding senior clerics' call to vote and supported hard-liners.

As he was taking pictures, the woman quietly raised the card she held with a voter's list. It bore a picture of the well-known reformist parliament speaker. Later, outside, she talked to Scott. "I speak for all 10 of my family members when I say we are very unhappy with the disqualification of so many candidates. I wear the maneh and the chador, but don't think that means we are satisfied with everything that goes here."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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