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Iraqi National Conference Postponed

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi 30 July 2004 -- Iraqi officials yesterday postponed a major national conference for two weeks, saying the delay is necessary to ensure the meeting will be fully representative and inclusive of the country's citizens.

The conference chairman, Fouad Masoum, said the date was not moved from 31 July to 15 August due to the lack of security in Iraq, but because UN officials had requested more time to properly organize the meeting.

"The United Nations has asked us to postpone the conference for two weeks to continue the negotiations with the different sectors of the Iraqi society and to discuss the issues that will be tackled by the conference," Masoum said.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell described the postponement as a "smart decision." He said he does not expect the delay to affect elections planned for January 2005.

Delegates at the conference are expected to select a 100-member National Council, which will serve as a check on the interim government until the poll in January.

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi today said after meeting with Powell and Saudi officials in Jeddah that Islamic and Arab nations should help stabilize his war-torn country by deploying troops. Allawi said the force would not include Iraq's neighbors.