Iraqi opposition meeting ends with show of unity

04 March 2003
Iraqi opposition groups concluded their meeting in the Kurdish town of Salahaddin with a show of unity on 2 March. Agreement on a final statement took longer than planned, opposition representatives reported. The text dealt with the issue that has been of most concern to Iraqi exiles in recent weeks - their place in the US' post-war plans, following signals from Washington that their role might be more limited than previously indicated. Opposition groups affirmed their right to be a 'partner' of the US in 'the liberation of Iraq,' and welcomed an assurance by US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad that 'the United States has no desire to govern Iraq'. Khalilzad's attendance at the gathering was viewed as a conciliatory gesture following fierce criticism of perceived opposition exclusion from post-war plans by members of the Iraqi National Congress and others. The conference was also used to elect a leadership council to represent opposition groups, and to send a conciliatory message to Turkey, whose war plans have also come under attack from some quarters. Iraqi Kurds are fearful of Ankara's intention to send troops into northern Iraq in the event of an American invasion. The conference agreed to send a delegation to Turkey to discuss the issue.

On 3 March, the UN was briefed on US plans by retired army general Jay Garner, who has been tasked by the White House with taking initial charge of post-war humanitarian, reconstruction and civil administration programmes in Iraq. He said that the aim was 'the fastest possible transition' from US to Iraqi rule, but that uncertainties made a timetable impossible.

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