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Iraq: New Governing Council Holds First Meeting

Baghdad, 13 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A new body that gives Iraqis a say in running their country is meeting for the first time in Baghdad today. The Iraqi Governing Council is the first executive body to be formed since U.S.-led forces ousted Saddam Hussein three months ago.

Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, said the meeting is "history in the making."

"We are witnessing history in the making. This is the first post-Saddam government. This is the first time when Iraqis are participating in a genuine way in their own political process. This is the opening of a new Iraqi state that respects human rights and considers democracy and considers international constructive relations with the rest of the world," Qabar said.

The unelected council is expected to have between 25 and 30 members and will represent all the various groups in Iraqi society.

The council will have the power to nominate ministers, review laws, sign contracts, and approve the national budget. It also will appoint members of a committee to draft a new constitution ahead of free elections.

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer will have the power to overrule any decisions. Writing today in "The New York Times," Bremer said the meeting is "the latest sign of progress."