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."

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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