Responding to a request from the Iraqi Governing Council for help, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday the team would be going to Iraq "as soon as practicable."

"I am prepared to send a team led by Lakhdar Brahimi," Annan said.

The Iraqi Governing Council had in a letter delivered to the world body sought its help.  

Early elections

The letter reiterated that the elections would be held by the end of January, 2005.

A similar letter was also received from Paul Bremer, the occupation-administrator in Iraq.

"I am prepared to send a team led by Lakhdar Brahimi"

Kofi Annan
UN Secretary-General

"We welcome UN consultations in the efforts we are exerting in the broad national dialogue regarding the shape and scope of this interim government," diplomats quoted the Iraqi letter as saying.

"We also look forward to United Nations assistance in providing advice and observations needed to ensure that direct elections are held before the end of January 2005," the letter stated.

Earlier, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosyhar Zebari said the letter had asked for the rapid re-engagement of the United Nations, which pulled its international staff out of Iraq last October.

"We want the United Nations to be re-engaged as soon as possible. We need them in two areas – to assist in the political process for a new Iraq and help us in the electoral process," Zebari said.

The US-led occupiers in Iraq have pledged to hand back sovereignty to Iraqis by the end of June. The plan envisages an interim administration followed by direct elections.