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Iraq: Brahimi Outlines Fast-Track Plan For Interim Government

Lakhdar Brahimi United Nations, 28 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has recommended the quick formation of an interim Iraqi government to allow time to handle the sensitive issues involved in the transfer of power from the U.S.-led coalition.

Brahimi told the UN Security Council yesterday that despite the time constraints and security concerns, it is possible to form such a government by the end of next month. He gave few new details but said it should be led by a president and two vice presidents.

Brahimi said its members could be drawn from a group of respected individuals across the country following consultations among the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Iraqi Governing Council, and the United Nations.

Brahimi emphasized that the caretaker Iraqi bodies should refrain from making any long-term policy commitments, and defer key decisions to a government to be elected in January.
One of the caretaker government's first tasks, Brahimi said, is to reach a clear understanding about its relationship with the former occupying powers and any foreign forces remaining in the country after the 30 June transfer of sovereignty. "One of the reasons why I think it will be good if this government was there, formed and accepted by the beginning of June, is for them to have the time to discuss with the occupying powers and with the United Nations and with the Security Council how power is going to be exercised after 30 June," he said.

During the UN envoy's previous visits to Iraq this year, he said many Iraqis conveyed their interest in convening a national conference of at least 1,000 people from all sectors of society. He recommended that an Iraqi preparatory committee of distinguished citizens -- including prominent judges -- be formed as soon as possible to plan such a conference.

Brahimi said the conference organizers should aim to begin the session in July with the purpose of opening a national dialogue and to appoint a council to advise the government. "This conference would, to begin with, allow such a wide and representative sample of Iraqi society to talk to one another, to discuss their painful past as well as the future of their country," he said.

Brahimi emphasized that the caretaker Iraqi bodies should refrain from making any long-term policy commitments. They should, he said, defer key decisions to a government to be elected in January.

U.S. officials have given Brahimi the lead in shaping a new governing arrangement in Iraq ahead of the planned transfer of sovereignty. Brahimi is due to return to Iraq soon to gauge Iraqi support for his transitional plan.

The man designated to run the new U.S. mission in Iraq, UN Ambassador John Negroponte, faced questions about U.S. support for Brahimi during his confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Negroponte stressed Brahimi's importance in shaping the new Iraqi transitional administration. "We strongly support Ambassador Brahimi's efforts and I think we will make every effort to give his recommendations the greatest possible weight," he said.

The UN Security Council will need to adopt a resolution on the sovereignty transfer plan once Brahimi has finished his consultations in Iraq. Security Council President Guenter Pleuger of Germany read a council statement expressing its initial approval of the Brahimi plan after yesterday's meeting: "The Security Council strongly supports the efforts and dedication of the special adviser and welcomes the provisional ideas he has submitted as a basis for the formation of an interim Iraqi government to which sovereignty will be transferred."

The statement called on Iraq's neighbors and the international community to lend all possible support to the UN-led political transition efforts.

Though involved in close consultations with U.S. officials, Brahimi also repeated his warning about a U.S. escalation of military activities in the town of Al-Fallujah. He told the Security Council that fighting there between U.S. forces and Iraqi insurgents has already caused many civilian casualties. Speaking shortly after news reports carried coverage of a renewed U.S. offensive, Brahimi warned of its consequences. "Unless this standoff -- and now this fighting -- is brought to a resolution through peaceful means, there is great risk of a very bloody confrontation," he said.

Also yesterday, the Iraqi Governing Council announced it was adopting UN recommendations on the formation of an Iraqi independent election commission. The commission will have an eight-member board of commissioners to oversee preparations for elections early next year.