Russia backs US timeline on Iraq polls

Russia, a leading opponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq, has said it does not support holding Iraqi elections until the end of the US military occupation and a handover to Iraqi sovereignty.

    Fedotov (L), said Iraq elections had to occur under UN auspices

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov said on Saturday national polls could only take place if they were organised under the aegis of the United Nations, which would not agree to take a role in current conditions.
      
    "There is no alternative to nationwide elections in Iraq and they will be held sooner or later," Fedotov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

    "But such elections will require in-depth preparation by all sides and it is very hard to imagine conducting such preparations under conditions of occupation of Iraq," he added.

    The United Nations - whose secretary general Kofi Annan recommended on Thursday elections be put off and a caretaker regime selected for the short term - "is unlikely to agree to start its work in Iraq under occupation." 

    UN participation key

    "The participation of the UN can only happen when the occupation of Iraq is ended and sovereignty is returned to the Iraqis," the Russian diplomat said.

    US civil administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, said earlier on Saturday it would be impossible to organise elections in Iraq for another year to 15 months due to technical reasons.

    Shia Muslims, who contest US plans to hand power over to an unelected authority in the summer, have demanded to know when national polls will finally be held.

    US officials have long argued widespread insecurity and a lack of electoral infrastructure prevents early elections in Iraq after the ouster of president Saddam Hussein last April.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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