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Iraq's Pachachi Says Will Compromise Over Elections

Washington, 22 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Adnan Pachachi, the current head of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, says he believes a compromise solution will be found over Shi'ite Muslim demands for early elections.

Pachachi, speaking on a visit to Washington, said Iraqis including influential Shi'ite Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- who has called for quick elections -- would likely accept a United Nations assessment of whether elections could be organized before a U.S.-backed 30 June power transfer deadline.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is still considering whether to send an elections assessment team to Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have indicated they are ready to forgive some of the thousands of millions of dollars they are owed by Iraq.

The pledges came after visits to the two countries by the U.S. special envoy on Iraqi debt, former Secretary of State James Baker. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait gave no figures on how much debt they are willing to forgive. They two countries also said they will only agree to debt reduction deals with a sovereign Iraqi government, which still must be formed.

Kuwait said it would keep the Iraqi debt issue separate from war reparations for damage suffered in Iraq's 1990 invasion. Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States has not given up on finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Cheney, in an interview on U.S. radio, said it will take an additional considerable period of time to check all the places in Iraq where unconventional arms could be stored.

Accusations that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's regime had chemical, biolgical, and possibly nuclear arms were central to the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq. But no such weapons have been found by U.S.-led forces.

Cheney made his comments in advance of his departure later today for a five-day European trip in which he is expected to encourage countries to get involved in the reconstruction of Iraq.