The gathering, attended by about 80 Iraqis, took place the day after the coalition declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq following the fall of Tikrit, tribal base of President Saddam Hussein. It was chaired by Jay Garner, director of the Office of Reconstruction & Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA), the US Defence Department unit set up to co-ordinate relief and initial reconstruction work. Also in attendance was Zalmay Khalilzad, US President Bush’s special envoy to the Iraqi opposition, and recently-appointed deputy ORHA director Tim Cross, a major general in the British Army. Australia and Poland, which both supported the US-led coalition, had officials at the meeting.

The most striking absentee was Ahmed Chalabi, president of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), who was flown with members of the US-trained Free Iraqi Fighters to Nasiriya on 9 April. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), the most prominent Shia exile group, boycotted the meeting. A demonstration in Nasiriya held at the same time as the meeting and attended by up to 20,000 protesters chanted: ‘No to America. No to Saddam.’

The gathering passed a 13-point resolution (see below) and agreed to meet again at a venue to be confirmed in 10 days time.

The Ur declaration

The following is the text of a resolution passed at the Ur meeting about the future of Iraq on 15 April 2003.

1 Iraq must be democratic

2 The future government of Iraq should not be based on communal identity

3 A future government should be organised as a democratic federal system, but on the basis of countrywide consultation

4 The rule of law must be paramount

5 That Iraq must be built on respect for diversity including respect for the role of women.

6 The meeting discussed the role of religion in state and society.

7. The meeting discussed the principle that Iraqis must choose their leaders, not have them imposed from outside.

8 That political violence must be rejected, and that Iraqis must immediately organise themselves for the task of reconstruction at both the local and national levels.

9 That Iraqis and the coalition must work together to tackle the immediate issues of restoring security and basic services

10 That the Baath party must be dissolved and its effects on society must be eliminated

11 That there should be an open dialogue with all national political groups to bring them into the process.

12 That the meeting condemns the looting that has taken place and the destruction of documents

13 The Iraqi participation in the Nasiriya meeting voted that there should be another meeting in 10 days in a location to be determined, with additional Iraqi participants and to discuss procedures for developing an Iraqi Interim Authority.