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UN Experts Meet With Iraqi Governing Council

Baghdad, 8 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- UN election experts in Iraq at the request of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met Iraq's interim leadership in Baghdad today to assess whether the country is ripe for elections before self-rule.

The experts are to investigate the feasibility of holding elections before the U.S. occupying forces transfer power to an Iraqi committee on 30 June.

Nasir Kamil al-Chadirchi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, said today that elections can not be held presently as the security situation is bad and there is no voter register.

Shi'a Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called for nationwide elections before the transfer of power.

Meanwhile, the first Japanese troops entered Iraq from Kuwait today for a reconstruction and humanitarian aid mission.

Also today, a mass grave containing the bodies of Shi'a Muslims allegedly executed by the former Iraq regime has
been found and uncovered in central Iraq.

The grave was discovered on 5 February, and exhumations began the next day. So far, some 40 corpses have been uncovered and more are being exhumed as searchers scour the site near the mostly Shi'a town of Al-Kifl, which lies about 100 kilometers south of Baghdad.

Local Shi'a officials say the bodies belonged to people executed by the former Iraqi regime in 1991 after a Shi'a revolt that followed the Gulf War.