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Until We Meet Again: Staff writer Howard LaFranchi says that one of the remaining pleasures for foreign reporters in Baghdad is meeting up with Iraqis they befriended on earlier trips. But such reunions are increasingly difficult (see story). "I was really happy after tentatively organizing a lunch meeting, to take place inside the compound the Monitor shares with other foreign media, with two friends I first met in a photo shop," Howard says. Monitor readers might remember his stories of young men from all of Iraq's sectarian groups who had started a photo and computer business. "They helped me in 2004 when my camera broke. They fixed it – and friendships bloomed. When I visited in 2005, a long visit at their photo shop was no longer safe – but I managed to have dinner at the home of one of the Shiites among them, who felt his neighborhood was the most secure. They told tales of how their weekly domino games, which they had rotated from house to house for years, could now only be held in the homes of two of them."

The luncheon this week was not to be. "One of the men called to explain that they were still receiving threatening phone calls about short-lived work they did a year ago for the US military. They feared they were being watched, in which case a trip to a compound of foreigners could be deadly."

Howard says he was profoundly disheartened. " 'Believe me, Mr. Howard,' my friend said, using the term people here tend to call me, 'I wish in my heart it were not like this. But God willing, you will return and that time maybe we will even be able to walk in Baghdad together.' He promised to send e-mails, and we said goodbye."

– Amelia Newcomb


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