Bremer predicts 2004 Iraq elections

A general election to set up an Iraqi government may be held by mid-2004, ending the American occupation, according to US occupying administrator Paul Bremer.

    Occupation will drag on until mid-2004

    Occupation troops will withdraw from Iraq as soon as a “democratic” Iraqi government is established, said Bremer on Thursday.

    The American presence is widely resented and occupying troops face, according to military sources, about 13 daily resistance attacks.

    Bremer was speaking at a ceremony re-opening Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, gutted and destroyed during the US and British bombing of Baghdad and the subsequent looting of government buildings.

    Earlier this month Bremer’s administration appointed a governing council of 25 Iraqis which Washington believes in the first step to self-rule.

    On Wednesday the council named its first president, Ibrahim Jaafari of the Dawa party.

    Jaafari is respected among ordinary Iraqis since the Dawa party opposed former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s government, reported our correspondent.

    The council has decided to have a rotating presidency among nine council members who will each hold it for a month at a time.

    The body has denied the delay in choosing a leader and that the decision to adopt a rotating presidency are signs of divisions and indecisiveness.

    The Iraqi Governing Council's
    moves can be vetoed by Bremer

    Among the council’s tasks are naming ministers to work with US officials and overseeing the writing of a new constitution. Bremer, however, holds veto power over their decisions.

    Regional council

    Meanwhile, US troops occupying the al-Anbar province are offering $500 to Iraqis who hand over shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

    The announcement was made at the first meeting of the 44-member regional council for the province,

     home to the flashpoint towns of Ramadi and Fallujah. 

    Occupation forces are struggling to stamp out resistance attacks in this area, one of the main battlefields.

    The council was chosen between the occupying army and pro-US Iraqis in al-Anbar. The US military is trying to establish nominally democratic governing institutions in all of 18 Iraq’s provinces.

    The body will report directly to Colonel David Teeples, the occupying commander of the Third Armoured Cavalry in the western province.

    The first session was held on the main US military base in Ramadi.


    Limited service

    Apart from limited consular services, the Foreign Ministry would not resume work until a new Iraqi government is in place, said Bremer.

    Since the end of the war, the building is crumbling and the Ministry’s 912 employees have been based in the former Protocol building.

    An additional 214 Iraqi foreign ministry employees are based in defunct embassies around the world but American officials would not say what their role would be or whether there were plans to bring them back to Iraq.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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