The New York Times reported on Thursday that the plan, which called for all Iraqi teachers to go to every home on 30 June with a streamlined set of questions, was devised in October.

But it never reached the Iraqi Governing Council for vetting, members of the council told the daily. 

Angry members of the council said if they had seen the plan, they might have voted differently on 15 November when they agreed to a US plan for indirect elections to choose a transitional government. 

Before the agreement, the council had been pushing for a national election in Iraq on 30 June 2004. 

Reluctant to hold elections before what they consider a proper census of the Iraqi population can be taken, the occupation
authorities had called for regional caucuses to elect a provisional government next year to take over from the US and lead Iraq to a constitution and elections. 

The caucus formula, however, was rejected outright by Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shia cleric, who maintains a transitional government must be elected by all Iraqis by next June.

"Rushing into a census in this time frame with the security environment that we have would not give the result that people want"

Charles Healtly,
Spokesman for occupation authorities

The Iraqi Census Bureau said it sent a copy of their census plan -  which would cost $75 million  mainly for the purchase of 2500 computers -  to the council, but that it apparently was lost in the bureaucracy. 

"We sent the plan to the Governing Council on November 1 and asked for an answer by November 15," said Luay Hagi, who oversees the Census Bureau in the Planning Ministry.
"We are still waiting for a response." 

US officials said they knew about the census plan, but decided
against pursuing it. 

"Rushing into a census in this time frame with the security
environment that we have would not give the result that people want," said Charles Healtly, a spokesman for the occupation authorities. 

"A lot of preparation work needs to be done for elections, and there is concern not to rush the process," he added.