Although elections are scheduled for January 2005, interim PM Iyad Allawi told CBS on Saturday that the insurgency has threatened to derail the political process.

"We are committed to elections, and one of the tasks is really to work towards achieving these objectives. However, security will be the main feature of whether we will be able to do it in January, February or March," Allawi, a former ally of Saddam Hussein and Baath party member, said.

Allawi and his interior and defence ministers have raised the idea of declaring emergency law in some areas as they seek to crush the insurgency.

Emergency law

Allawi said emergency measures were legal in the name of "bringing peace back" to Iraq.

"We are committed
to elections, and one of the tasks is really to work towards achieving these objectives. However, security will
be the main feature of whether we will be able to do it in January, February or March"

Iyad Allawi,
interim Iraqi prime minister

"We are considering, among other things, a law which we are calling the defence of public safety ... which is still being considered."

He denied the law would serve as a form of martial law.   

"It would be empowering the government to take action and measures against criminals, apprehend them, question them, investigate and impose curfews whenever is necessary. These are all that we are calling the defence of public safety in Iraq," he said.

Allawi said he expected a decision on the matter in the coming few days.

Olive branch

He also offered an olive branch of amnesty to his countrymen who have resisted the US occupation out of a sense of indignation not destabilisation.

There appears to be no end in
sight to the violence in Iraq

Allawi said his administration would have understanding for fellow Iraqis who had risen up against the occupation out of a sense of desperation, but would draw the line at those who had joined the foreign conspiracy to destabilise the country, he told a UK newspaper.

"We are drawing up plans to provide amnesty to Iraqis who supported the so-called resistance without committing crimes, while isolating the hardcore elements of terrorists and criminals," he wrote in The Independent on Sunday.

"The government will make a clear distinction between those Iraqis who have acted against the occupation out of a sense of desperation, and those foreign terrorist fundamentalists and criminals whose sole objective is to kill and maim innocent people and to see Iraq fail," he added.

Spiralling violence

With a rising crescendo of murders and bombings of civilians as well as attacks on US occupation forces and a threat on his own life, Allawi said national security was the top priority.

"This mandates the rapid rebuilding of Iraq's key institutions for law enforcement including the army, police, border control and intelligence services," he wrote in a barely veiled criticism of the US decision to disband the Iraqi army after ousting Saddam Hussein last year.

But he insisted that such a rebirth would exclude former members of the security services known to have blood on their hands from working for Saddam.

"The honour of decent Iraqi ex-officials, including military and police, should be restored, excluding of course those who committed heinous crimes against the nation," he wrote.