Bush 'missiles' a shoe-fire best-seller

THE maker of the shoes thrown by an Iraqi journalist at George Bush has reported an influx of orders from around the world in the wake of the incident.

Ramazan Baydan, the owner of the Istanbul-based Baydan Shoe Co, which claims to make the shoes, has recruited an extra 100 staff to meet orders for 300,000 pairs of Model 271.

He said that about 120,000 orders had come from Iraq, but many had been placed in Britain and the United States.

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It is understood that a UK firm has even offered to act as a European distributor for the footwear, which retail in Turkey for about 28 a pair.

So popular is the shoe that Mr Baydan has said he is renaming it from its rather anonymous title to the "Bush" shoe.

However, Muntazer al-Zaidi's brother, Durgham, accused the company of lying for commercial gain.

He said: "The Syrians claim the shoes were made in Syria and the Turks say they made them. Some say he bought them in Egypt. But as far as I know, he bought them in Baghdad and they were made in Iraq."

The original shoes used by Zaidi were destroyed during security checks.

Meanwhile, the repercussions of Zaidi's protest are now threatening to throw the country's government out of step.

The row over the treatment of the journalist led to extraordinary scenes in the country's parliament yesterday, which could place in doubt the legal right of British troops serving in Iraq.

Iraqi MPs called an emergency session in an attempt to oust from power the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani.

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And having become embroiled in the argument, the nation's parliamentarians were unable to cast crucial votes over whether to allow thousands of British and all other non-US troops to stay in the country.

Without parliamentary agreement, the troops would have no legal grounds to remain after the expiration of a UN mandate on 31 December.

The postponement of the vote is causing unease around Westminster. It remains unclear when the Iraqi parliament will resume. It is expected to close tomorrow for Christmas and the following weekend. Privately, however, the British government hopes an interim resolution or law can be passed before then.

Amid fraught scenes in the parliament, Mr Mashhadani called for a delay in voting after a group of MPs demanded his resignation for insulting them during a recent debate over Zaidi's fate.

The speaker last week threatened to resign, having failed to calm an unruly debate over the incident, with a first reading of the resolution unable to be heard over of the uproar about the "attack" on the US president. An angry Mr Mashhadani said: "There is no honour in leading this parliament."

Yesterday, Shia and Kurdish MPs tried to force Mr Mashhadani, a Sunni, to step down, accusing him of having insulted the legislature.

"Either he resigns or we vote him down," said Muhsin al-Saadoun, a Kurdish MP.

Should an agreement fail to be struck, the British government insists it has alternatives in place.

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Asked what would happen should the UN mandate expire without the resolution being passed, John Hutton, the Defence Secretary, said: "That would be a serious situation and obviously we couldn't let it happen, but I don't think it will.

"We have contingency plans. The safety of our guys out there is our top priority. There will have to be an agreement, a proper agreement, before our guys are out on the streets."

The fracas impacts only on the 4,000 British troops in southern Iraq, as well as smaller contingents from Australia, El Salvador, Estonia and Romania. Britain has already announced it plans to withdraw by the end of next May.

Journalist says he would do it all again

THE brother of Muntazer al-Zaidi said the journalist did not regret his actions at the news conference, and claimed he was forced to write a letter of apology after being tortured in prison.

"He told me that he has no regret because of what he did and that he would do it again," said Uday al-Zaidi.

He added his brother is missing a tooth and has cigarette burns on his ears, and that he was doused with cold water while naked.

"When I saw him yesterday, there were bruises on his face and body. He told me that they used an iron bar to hit him when they took him out of the press conference room," he said.

Thousands of Iraqis have rallied to demand Zaidi's release. His trial will begin on 31 December. Aggression against a head of state carries a prison term of between five and 15 years, but it is understood that Zaidi could eventually face a lesser charge of "attempted aggression" – if convicted, he could face up to two years in jail.

Zaidi, who called Mr Bush a "dog" during the conference, said he was acting for "widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq".

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