"We will do it by the 31st of January," Allawi said on Sunday, when asked by a small group of reporters to clarify his comments to CBS television on Saturday that Iraq's tenuous security situation could delay elections by two months.

"That was a great misinterpretation," he said. "It was taken out of context."

The hawkish former neurosurgeon told the US channel that he was committed to elections and one of his key tasks after the 30 June return of Iraqi sovereignty was to ensure they took place.

Security

"However, security will be the main feature of whether we will
be able to do it in January, February or March," Allawi said,
according to a transcript of the CBS interview. 

"That (reports of delay)was a great misinterpretation. It was taken out of context."

Iyad Allawi,
Iraqi interim prime minister

He said the January 2005 elections may be delayed by two months if attacks continue and threaten the political process.

Allawi, along with his interior and defence ministers, have raised the idea of invoking emergency law in some areas to stem violence.

In a Sunday opinion article published in The Observer newspaper in Britain, Allawi also said that he plans to offer amnesty to those fighting US-led occupation forces while isolating "hardcore elements of terrorists and criminals and undercutting their base of support".

With only a few days left for the planned 30 June transfer of power to Iraqis, a spate of explosions has killed more than 100 in less than a week.

More civilians die

The southern town of Hilla was the latest area to be hit after two car bombs exploded late on Saturday near a mosque, killing 23 civilians and injuring 58 others.

A spate of blasts has killed more
than 100 in less than a week

Eyewitnesses said Iraqi policemen or occupation forces were not present in the area at the time, our correspondent said. 

Polish troops in the area said many children were also killed in the explosions.

Meanwhile, Turkey has said it will not bend to demands made by the group which seized three Turkish workers. The group had threatened to behead the men within 72 hours if Turkish companies do not stop working with US occupation forces.

Turkey firm

"Turkey has been fighting terrorist activity for more than 20 years ... They ask many things, they demand many things. We never consider them with seriousness," said Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul on Sunday.

In a videotape sent to Aljazeera on Saturday, the three men were shown kneeling in front of two masked men with guns while holding up their passports. They said their names and explained in Turkish the nature of their work in Iraq.

Previous killings

The captors, who said they were from the al-Tawhid and al-Jihad group, called on the Turkish people to demonstrate against Bush's visit to Turkey and to push for the pull-out of Turkish companies working with US forces.

Latest Turkish captives: Ankara
is trying to get them freed

The same group had also claimed responsibility for beheading American national Nicholas Berg in May and South Korean translator Kim Sun-il this week.

The Turkish defense minister said Ankara was providing humanitarian aid to Iraqis in the form of electric power, food and medicine hauled by thousands of Turkish truck drivers.

In Ankara, a Turkish diplomat said they were trying to secure the release of the three men. Ankara has succeeded in ensuring the release of several other Turks abducted in Iraq.

Seven Turks working for companies doing business with the Americans were held near Falluja but were freed this month after their employer said "prominent families" in the area secured their release.