US considers election or selection

The United States is considering holding elections for a provisional Iraqi government rather than have its members selected by regional caucuses.

    Iraqi Council President Jalal Talabani puts on a US Army cap

    The Washington Post

    said on Friday t

    he possible change in the US plan for a transition to Iraqi

    sovereignty came after the leader of Iraq's Shia majority,

    Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, on Thursday rejected the US-led

    coalition's blueprint for transition and demanded elections at all

    levels of the Iraqi administration.

    "Elections are now a possibility," a senior US official close to

    Iraq's political transition process told the daily. "We're

    scrambling to find a solution."

    The new thinking in US plans for post-war Iraq also coincides

    with US President George W Bush's surprise visit on Thursday to Iraq.

    Besides meeting US soldiers on the US Thanksgiving holiday, Bush

    met with some leaders of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

    On 15 November, the US-led coalition announced it would hand

    over power to a provisional Iraqi government selected by notables to

    be convened in each of Iraq's 18 provinces, abandoning its previous

    insistence on prior elections under a constitution approved by

    referendum.

    "We're waiting to see what Sistani says. If he says no to the caucuses, then we have to figure out a way to get elections done"

    US official

    After Sistani's rejection, however, US officials told the daily

    that the Bush administration may be forced to organise elections to

    satisfy Sistani.

    "We were surprised that Sistani did not bless the plan," a

    senior administration official said.

    US officials said they were now waiting for a clear statement

    from Sistani about what he wants. Sistani's reaction to the

    coalition plan was conveyed to reporters by the head of the

    Governing Council, Jalal Talabani, after he met with the top Shia

    cleric in the central holy city of Najaf.

    "We're waiting to see what he says. If he says no to the

    caucuses, then we have to figure out a way to get elections done,"

    the senior US official said.

    Ration cards for register

    Brushing aside the coalition's insistence that elections of any

    sort were impossible before 2005, Sistani insisted that the

    ration-card system in force here for more than a decade gave ample

    basis for an electoral register.

    Another option US officials said they were considering was to

    hold elections in Shia and Kurdish areas, but only caucuses in

    Sunni areas, where the worst anti-coalition violence is taking

    place.

    However, Shia leaders argue that such a mixed approach might

    alienate the Sunni population.

    SOURCE: AFP


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