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UN Envoy Hints At Early National Assembly In Iraq

Baghdad, 14 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A UN official today said Iraq could convene a national assembly in July to choose a council to advise the country's interim government, soon after Iraq is slated to regain its sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition on 30 June.

United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi made the remark in Baghdad today. He said those advisers could help the interim government organize elections due by early 2005.

"We see it [an interim Iraqi administration to assume power on 30 June] as a government led by a prime minister and comprising Iraqi men and women known for their honesty, integrity, and competence," Brahimi said. "There will also be a president to act as head of state and two vice presidents."

Brahimi also said the security situation in Iraq needs to improve before elections can be held.

He said that the conference, reminiscent of Afghanistan's Loya Jirga after the Taliban government fell, could choose a consultative assembly to serve alongside the interim government that is due to organize elections by January. Turning over sovereignty, Brahimi said, means the end of legal occupation of Iraq.

"I think sovereignty means for me the end of legal occupation. There will be a government that will be sovereign, that will exercise this sovereignty. Of course, realities will have to be addressed. Sovereignty will be handed over, but the 150,000 soldiers that are here are not going to disappear on 1 July," Brahimi said.

Brahimi, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's adviser on Iraq, has been in that country for two weeks exploring ideas for the political transition. He said that Iraqis he has consulted suggested the conference.

Brahimi said his proposals are sketches and will be reviewed by Annan and debated among Iraqi leaders before he presents them formally.

He said he favors an interim government with a president, as a nominal head of state, and two vice presidents to reflect the Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurdish makeup of Iraq, as well as a cabinet of ministers overseen by a prime minister.

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