UN considers Iraq election mediation

The United Nations is considering sending a team to Iraq which the US hopes will quell Iraqi opposition to its plans for a new government.

    Annan (C) pulled the UN out of Baghdad three months ago

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan 

    said on Monday he could not immediately authorise sending a team to study the

    feasibility of direct elections before the US hands over power in July. 

    But with the leader of Iraq's Shia Muslims pressing for a national vote

    ,

    the UN chief said he would consider the request

     put forward

    by the US occupation administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

    Annan made the statement after meeting Bremer and a delegation from the

    handpicked Iraqi Governing Council in New York.

    "The stability of Iraq should be everyone's business. I think we

    have an opportunity to work together to try and move forward," Annan

    said. He said he would take a decision after UN experts consider the

    request.

    UN Baghdad bombing  

    "We all agree that it (UN involvement in Iraq) will be easier after July 1 when a

    provisional Iraqi government is established. But if we

    get it wrong at this stage, it'll be even more difficult and we may

    not even get to the next stage"

    Kofi Annan,
    UN secretary general

     

    Annan has been hesitant to return UN staff to Iraq after he pulled them out

     three months ago after two deadly bombings at the UN's Baghdad

    headquarters.

    But while he is reluctant to get the world body enmeshed in the US

    management of Iraq's political transition, Annan also said

    not getting involved now could make the UN's role tougher after Iraq

    regains sovereignty.

    "We all agree that it will be easier after July 1 when a

    provisional Iraqi government is established," he said. "But if we

    get it wrong at this stage, it'll be even more difficult and we may

    not even get to the next stage."

    The US-led coalition and the Governing Council agreed on 15 November

     to hand power in July to an interim government

    selected through a caucus system. A constitution would be written

    later before full elections next year.

    But Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, whose Shia followers were

    suppressed under Saddam Hussein and fear being marginalised now,

    wants direct elections.

    Shia protests 

    His call has brought tens of thousands

    of protesters onto the streets during the past week.

    Yet, Sistani has also indicated he is open to compromise if a

    mission from the United Nations concluded there was not enough time

    for the elections to go forward

    .

    Bremer, who announced the United States could modify the plan after

    a meeting in Washington with top US officials on Friday,

    praised the UN chief despite not getting the immediate response he

    had hoped for.

    "I think the encouraging news from today was that the secretary-

    general agreed to consider this request very seriously," Bremer told

    reporters.

    "I think we will see how and when that team comes and what they

    report. And at that point, we'll be able to make a judgment on the

    way forward."

    Iraqi Shias supported al-Sistani's
    call during mass demonstrations

    Direct elections 

    Among the Iraqi delegation at the meeting were current Governing

    Council president Adnan Pachachi as well as Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, a

    Shia political leader who underlined al-Sistani's call for Iraqis to

    have their political say.

    "There should be real participation of the people through the

    elections in choosing this council," Hakim told a post-meeting press

    conference.

    "If this is not possible, then we should search for the

    necessary alternatives or the appropriate ones, and we should all

    cooperate in order to reach these alternatives after we establish

    the principle, the principle of referring the matter for the Iraqi

    people," he said.

    Pachachi said all parties agreed the 30 June

    deadline had to be kept and added that, with a law for Iraq due next

    month that will set the stage for a constitution, time was running

    short.

    "This is an issue that has to be resolved soon, before the end

    of February," he said.

    SOURCE: AFP


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