Baghdad, 12 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, today urged Iraq's Governing Council to follow an established timeline for the creation of a new government, in spite of an influential cleric's demands for early elections.
Bremer said it is necessary to implement a 15 November agreement, agreed by the Governing Council, that calls for a provisional government to be selected by 1 July, paving the way for full elections in 2005.
"We think it is important to implement the 15 November agreement which was agreed by the Governing Council and has been submitted to the United Nations as the best way forward before the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people and to provide for elections in about a year now to a constituent assembly," Bremer said.
Bremer's comments come after Iraq's most senior Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said the current plan will not create a legitimate government, and may lead to increased political tensions. Al-Sistani said he believes direct elections can instead be organized in the coming months.
Sistani's support is concerned crucial for gaining the Shi'a majority's backing for the U.S.-backed plans for the transition of power.