UN's role in Iraq to be discussed

The UN's role in transferring power to Iraqis in the US-occupied country will top the agenda at talks in New York next week.

    Twenty one people died in last year's UN Baghdad HQ blast

    Iraq's governing council president, Adnan Pachachi, said on 

    Thursday that the

    US occupation administrator in Iraq, Paul

    Bremer, will attend next week's UN talks with Iraq's interim

    Governing Council

    .

    Pachachi also warned that Iraq would have to live two more years

    under the US-led occupation if the timetable for power transfer

    outlined in a 15 November agreement

    was not adhered to.

    "There are going to be three-way discussions including

    Ambassador Bremer and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan," Pachachi said

    .

    Whether Bremer would attend next Monday's meeting had been the

    subject of speculation, and there was no immediate confirmation from

    his office in Baghdad.

    Washington had previously declined to say who would participate

    in the discussions, as the White House has an ambivalent relationship

    with the international body and with Annan, who opposed the US-led

    war to oust Saddam.

    Iraqi sovereignty

    A senior State Department official had said on Tuesday that

    Washington did not want to take centre stage during the Iraqi

    delegation's visit.

    "I am confident the talks will have positive results," Pachachi

    said. "We will clarify from Secretary General Kofi Annan and his

    aides what the UN can provide over the next months as Iraq regains

    its sovereignty."

    Pachachi said the council hoped the United Nations could help in

    forming a 250-member transitional national assembly, which is to be

    activated on 31 May, a month before Iraq regains its "sovereignty".

    "I am confident the talks will have positive results... The UN's involvement will give greater legitimacy to the

    process"

    Adnan Pachachi,
    Iraqi Governing Council

    "The UN's involvement will give greater legitimacy to the

    process," he said, adding that the UN's role would be linked to the

    question of its return to Iraq and to what extent it would be

    willing to send sufficient personnel to monitor the process.

    "If the UN is unable or unwilling to play a big role in Iraq

    that would be a matter of great regret to us, but we are not going

    to delay the process," Pachachi said.

    A major concern for Pachachi and the 24 other members of the

    council is the insistence by Grand Ayat Allah Sistani, spiritual

    leader of Iraq's majority Shias, that elections be held to select

    members of the assembly.

    US occupation

    The US-sponsored council, the coalition and the United Nations

    have all said that holding elections within such a short timeframe

    would be difficult given the need to conduct a census.

    Pachachi said insisting on elections now would scuttle the whole

    power transfer agreement and mean two more years of US-led

    occupation.

    "In the event we postpone the sovereignty date (of June), the

    Iraqi people will be extremely disappointed and frustrated after

    being told for weeks and months that there will be an Iraqi

    government and an end to the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority),"

    he said.

    For his part, Iraqi interim foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said

    he was "very, very optimistic" that the United Nations would return

    to Iraq.

    The talks in New York will come five months to the day after a

    car bombing at the world body's Baghdad headquarters killed Sergio

    Vieira de Mello, its top official in the war-torn country, and 21

    others.

    SOURCE: AFP


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