"We expect the election team within 10 days and we hope al-Ibrahimi will be here in a couple of weeks," an occupation official said in Baghdad on Friday.


The statement came a few hours after US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Baghdad and held talks with the top US occupation adminstrator Paul Bremer, interim Governing Council members and foreign minister Hoyshar Zebari.


The 25-member council on Wednesday said it was inviting the UN back to Iraq for advice on holding national elections and assembling the caretaker government set to rule the country at the end of the US occupation in June.




Some Shia members on the council had previously objected to al-Ibrahimi's return after he visited Iraq in February and counselled against holding elections there before 30 June.


They accused al-Ibrahimi of not even listening to their arguments in favour of quick polls and of just following the lead of Washington.


Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, who wields powerful influence over the nation's Shia Muslim community, had originally called for direct elections to take place before the handover.


Al-Sistani was thought to be behind resistance to al-Ibrahimi's return until the UN envoy announced on Tuesday the Shia spiritual leader had sent a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan encouraging the world body's return to Iraq.