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UN Envoy Backs Al-Sistani's Call For Elections

Al-Najaf, Iraq; 12 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A United Nations election envoy today said that the UN backs Iraq's top Shi'a cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in his demand for elections, but did not mention the timing of such polls.

Lakhdar Brahimi made the comment after meeting with al-Sistani amid tight security at his home in the city of Al-Najaf, 160 kilometers south of the capital Baghdad.

Brahimi said both sides have agreed that any election should be well-prepared so that it will "meet the desires of al-Sistani, the Iraqis and the United Nations."

Al-Sistani wants elections to be held before the planned 30 June 30 transfer of power to Iraqis. The UN team is investigating whether conditions are feasible to stage such early elections.

Brahimi said the UN is behind al-Sistani "100 percent" because elections are the best way to enable any people to establish a state that serves their own interests.

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