A gathering of more than 300 representatives of Iraqi groups opposed to Saddam Hussein's regime convened in London on 13 December in an attempt to find some common ground on the shape of a post-Saddam Iraq. Originally scheduled for September, the conference was delayed by quarrelling among the various opposition factions. When first planning for a potential war to remove the Iraqi president, the US envisaged a central role for the opposition groups, but scaled this back as their disunity became evident. A senior US official quoted in the Washington Post on 13 December said that their role would most probably be restricted to an advisory one: 'Other than that, I don't see...giving Iraqi exiles much authority.' The agenda of the London gathering seeks to create a minimum level of agreement, with delegates asked to endorse a democratic future for Iraq, a national assembly, and a referendum on a constitution after Saddam Hussein's removal. The groups will also be asked to form a committee to liase with the White House on Iraq's political future.
In a step towards mending some of the fences that divide the different factions, leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Iraqi National Congress and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq held a series of bilateral meetings in Tehran on 9 and 10 December ahead of the London conference (MEED 11:12:02).
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