US sticks to June Iraq handover date

The US is awaiting a UN recommendation for the handover of sovereignty in Iraq, but insists it will take place by 30 June, America's occupation administrator has said.

    Bremer says direct elections should happen in 2005

    In a pair of interviews on US Sunday talk shows, Paul

    Bremer would not say which proposals

    he thought would be put forward by UN envoy al-Akhdar al-Ibrahimi,

    who visited Iraq last week to assess calls for an early vote.

    Speaking from Baghdad, Bremer nevertheless signaled some willingness to

    move forward proposed national elections, proposed under the US plan

    to begin on 31 January 2005.

    "If we can do it sooner and have it be legitimate and if

    the UN and we agree that that can be done then that's not a

    problem if it's the end of the year or early January," he said

    on CNN's Late Edition.

    But Bremer insisted elections could not be conducted before

    the June handover date set by President George Bush, who faces what could be a

    fierce re-election battle against a Democratic opponent in

    November.

    "If we can do it (hold direct elections) sooner and have it be legitimate and if

    the UN and we agree that that can be done then that's not a

    problem if it's the end of the year or early January"

    Paul Bremer,
    US occupation administrator

    Bush has come under increasing pressure for his

    handling of the Iraq war from his likely challenger, Senator John

    Kerry of Massachusetts.

    'Open to alternatives'

    "There is general agreement that there is not time to hold

    elections in the time frame of June. Indeed, I think that will

    be the conclusion of the UN," Bremer said.

    And on ABC's This Week, he added: "We've said all along

    we're open to alternatives. We want to stick with the date."

    Al-Ibrahimi is to report back to the Iraqi Governing Council

    "hopefully in the next week or 10 days", Bremer said. "We will

    look at that advice with great seriousness."

    The call for an early vote, spearheaded by Ayat Allah Ali

    al-Sistani, the most influential Shia religious authority

    , has derailed the US plan to hold caucuses for

    electing a transitional assembly.

    It has also raised questions over how

    to pick such a body before 30 June.

    The Bush administration turned to the United Nations for

    help after largely bypassing the world body as it proceeded

    with the Iraq war.

    Iraq attacks

    At the United Nations, officials have said it is possible

    elections might be scheduled before the end of the year, and

    that the caucus system proposed by the United States

    is no longer on the table.

    Iraq has seen one of its bloodiest
    week since last April

    However, the envoys said some transfer of power would take

    place on 30 June, and not be delayed until after elections.

    Al-Ibrahimi said on Friday the credibility of elections was

    more important than timing.

    Bremer acknowledged the new plan "may be different from the

    caucus plan. It may be a modified caucus plan. It may be some

    form of partial election. It may be some mechanism of a

    national conference".

    But he said on CNN: "We believe June 30 is a date that can

    be hit and will be hit."

    The US occupation administrator in Iraq spoke after one of the

    bloodiest weeks since US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein on 9

    April.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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