Reporters on the Job

Watching the Vote: Correspondent Fred Weir has covered elections in Russia and some of the former Soviet states. But as he prepares to cover this Sunday's rerun of the Ukrainian presidential election, Fred says that he's never seen this many foreign observers - or this kind of election watcher (this page).

"Typically, they are older people who've been lawyers or congressmen or congressional aides, and they're electoral watchers because they love the process and are technically competent. But the hotels in Ukraine are filling up with a different breed of observer," says Fred.

For example, there are a large number of Ukrainian Canadians, with no experience in electoral monitoring. "It's hard to talk to the rank-and-file monitors - their sponsoring organizations aren't making them accessible to the media. I suspect this is because they're not well-trained in electoral monitoring," he says.

"I'm not prejudging them. I know that some are getting lectures on how to be impartial and neutral. But they are different from the typical electoral observer," says Fred.

Frank Iraqis: Correspondent Nicholas Blanford's interview in Damascus with the new Iraqi ambassador to Syria prompted today's story linking Syrian officials to the Iraqi insurgency. But the revelation didn't surprise Nick. "I've been working in the Arab world for a decade, and trying to get Arab politicians to tell you anything is like trying to get blood out of a stone," he says. "But Iraqi officials I've spoken to since the fall of Saddam Hussein are very frank and open."

The ambassador was a founder of Iraq's Baath Party and has lived in Syria for 25 years, in opposition to Iraq's Hussein. "He says that he will have to draw on those 25 years to tiptoe through the diplomatic minefield of relations between Syria and Iraq," says Nick.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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