The head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, told Aljazeera on Sunday his colleagues on the council had taken “a unanimous decision” to consult popular opinion.

He gave no details about how this consultation would take place.

The US-led authority and the interim Governing Council it installed announced jointly on 15 November a new transitional administration would be set up by 30 June 2004, which would “assume full sovereign powers for governing Iraq”.

A basic law is due to be codified by March 2004, and an interim representative assembly is expected to be picked by June.

Al-Hakim told Aljazeera the council's decision was supported by Iraq’s Shia leadership.

But the country’s most senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayat Allah Ali Sistani, has criticised the power transfer plan.