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Annan Willing To Send Mission To Iraq

Paris, 27 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is willing to send a mission to Iraq to assess whether elections can be held by mid-year.

But the statement released today while he was in Paris says Annan would only send such a mission once he is satisfied the U.S-led authorities will provide adequate security arrangements.

The United States and U.S.-backed Iraqis have asked the United Nations to issue a determination on whether elections can be properly organized before 30 June, when the U.S. wants to hand over power to a caucus-selected -- not directly elected -- transitional Iraqi government.

Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called for a full-scale direct election. But U.S. officials and others have raised doubts about whether such a vote is feasible under current conditions.