Annan said that elections need to be organised properly, that political and legal instruments must be in place and that security had to be stable before there are polls. ‘I think the conclusion then will have to be that elections before the end of June may not be possible, but there will have to be better organised elections later on,’ Annan said at the UN’s New York headquarters.

Annan is on 19 February due to hear the findings of special adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, who recently visited Iraq to assess whether early elections are feasible (MEED 9:2:04).

Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has rejected US proposals to set up new administration without elections. However, Shiite council member Ahmed Shayyah Barak has suggested that the Shiite community is willing to compromise on the timeframe of elections. ‘If the UN thinks it is better to hold elections much later, then we have no objection to transferring power to an Iraqi body during a transitional period while finding a solution to the technical and security problems,’ Barak said.

Security in Iraq was once more in the news when two US troops and one Iraqi were killed in a roadside bomb near Khalidiya on 19 February. The previous day, US soldiers arrested 55 people after a prison on the outskirts of Baghdad came under mortar and rocket attack. One Iraqi died in the incident.