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Annan To Send UN Team To Iraq

Washington, 4 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is sending a UN team to Iraq to help Iraqis seek consensus on how to form a transitional government.

Annan, who spoke after meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush yesterday, said the UN team would assess whether direct elections can be organized before a 30 June deadline to transfer power to an Iraqi government. The U.S. administration in Iraq says there is not enough time to organize direct elections in the coming months.

"I hope this team I'm sending in will be able to play a role, getting the Iraqis to understand that if they could come to some consensus and some agreement on how to establish that [provisional] government, they are halfway there [to the goal]," he said.

The UN chief did not say exactly when his team would go to Iraq. Meanwhile in Iraq, the death toll has risen to at least 101 from the double suicide bombings Sunday of Kurdish political offices in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

And some 90 Japanese soldiers arrived in Kuwait today to train for their reconstruction and humanitarian aid mission in Iraq. The troops are among the first of some 1,000 Japanese soldiers set to deploy in Iraq on a noncombat mission.