Governing council weighs handover options

16 February 2004
Iraq's governing council will on 16 February begin to debate how best to secure the handover of political power from the US-led coalition while it awaits UN proposals on the matter. A nine-member UN team concluded on 13 February a six-day visit to evaluate the feasibility of holding direct elections before the scheduled 30 June handover (MEED 13:2:04).

'We want an agreement on how we will create the leadership that will be handed sovereignty,' Council member Mahmoud Othman said. 'We have two options: either expanding the governing council by adding new members or holding a national conference that will include all the Iraqi powers.'

During the UN's visit, envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held talks with Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to discuss the cleric's demands for elections. Afterwards, Brahimi said that both sides had agreed on the need for elections, but had not agreed on a timeframe for the polls. Reports say the Marjaiya - the top clerical body for the country's Shiite majority - is drawing up alternatives to its demands for an early vote as it too awaits the UN's findings.

Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer said on 15 February that the US is open to new ideas concerning the handover, but that it is committed to the 30 June transfer target. He also said that there are numerous options available, which include partial elections or a national conference.

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