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UN's role in Iraq to be discussed

The UN's role in transferring power to Iraqis in the US-occupied country will top the agenda at talks in New York next week.

Last Modified: 15 Jan 2004 23:29 GMT
Twenty one people died in last year's UN Baghdad HQ blast

The UN's role in transferring power to Iraqis in the US-occupied country will top the agenda at talks in New York next week.

Iraq's governing council president, Adnan Pachachi, said on Thursday that the US occupation administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, will attend next week's UN talks with Iraq's interim Governing Council.

Pachachi also warned that Iraq would have to live two more years under the US-led occupation if the timetable for power transfer outlined in a 15 November agreement was not adhered to.

"There are going to be three-way discussions including Ambassador Bremer and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan," Pachachi said.

Whether Bremer would attend next Monday's meeting had been the subject of speculation, and there was no immediate confirmation from his office in Baghdad.

Washington had previously declined to say who would participate in the discussions, as the White House has an ambivalent relationship with the international body and with Annan, who opposed the US-led war to oust Saddam.

Iraqi sovereignty

A senior State Department official had said on Tuesday that Washington did not want to take centre stage during the Iraqi delegation's visit.

"I am confident the talks will have positive results," Pachachi said. "We will clarify from Secretary General Kofi Annan and his aides what the UN can provide over the next months as Iraq regains its sovereignty."

Pachachi said the council hoped the United Nations could help in forming a 250-member transitional national assembly, which is to be activated on 31 May, a month before Iraq regains its "sovereignty".

"I am confident the talks will have positive results... The UN's involvement will give greater legitimacy to the process"

Adnan Pachachi,
Iraqi Governing Council

"The UN's involvement will give greater legitimacy to the process," he said, adding that the UN's role would be linked to the question of its return to Iraq and to what extent it would be willing to send sufficient personnel to monitor the process.

"If the UN is unable or unwilling to play a big role in Iraq that would be a matter of great regret to us, but we are not going to delay the process," Pachachi said.

A major concern for Pachachi and the 24 other members of the council is the insistence by Grand Ayat Allah Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq's majority Shias, that elections be held to select members of the assembly.

US occupation

The US-sponsored council, the coalition and the United Nations have all said that holding elections within such a short timeframe would be difficult given the need to conduct a census.

Pachachi said insisting on elections now would scuttle the whole power transfer agreement and mean two more years of US-led occupation.

"In the event we postpone the sovereignty date (of June), the Iraqi people will be extremely disappointed and frustrated after being told for weeks and months that there will be an Iraqi government and an end to the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority)," he said.

For his part, Iraqi interim foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said he was "very, very optimistic" that the United Nations would return to Iraq.

The talks in New York will come five months to the day after a car bombing at the world body's Baghdad headquarters killed Sergio Vieira de Mello, its top official in the war-torn country, and 21 others.

Source:
AFP
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