Iraqi opposition states intention to form provisional government

28 March 2003
A coalition of Iraqi opposition groups on 27 March stated their intention to form 'an independent provisional government' after the fall of Saddam Hussein, risking a clash with the US over the administration of post-war Iraq. The Council of the Leadership of the Iraqi Opposition includes representatives from the US-funded umbrella opposition the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Tehran-based Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and two Kurdish groups. Their statement says that the government would be representative and include figures currently in Baghdad-controlled Iraq as well as exiles. 'The government will include political personalities with experience who have a history of patriotic struggle and competence and with loyalty to Iraq, including those inside Saddam-occupied areas now.' The opposition statement says that the provisional government will seek 'help' from the US-led war coalition, the UN and the international community in order to secure the lifting of sanctions, debt relief and assistance with development. It will also undertake 'negotiation and dialogue' with the coalition and the UN on seeking and destroying weapons of mass destruction and 'to put in place a timeline for withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq'.

This move by the Iraqi opposition, many of whom have complained of their marginalisation since war began, drew a sceptical response from the US. 'The exact mechanism for choosing the interim authority will be determined after the conflict is over in consultation with the Iraqis,' said US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. US special envoy to the Iraqi opposition Zalmay Khalizad has been dispatched to northern Iraq to discuss the issue. In an interview on National Public Radio on 26 March, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the US would expect to have 'significant, dominating control' over the post-war transition to independent government. Sciri leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim on 25 March warned that a prolonged US presence in Iraq after war could spark armed revolt (MEED 26:3:03).

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