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US, Iraqi Officials to Go Ahead with Transition Plan - 2004-01-12

U.S. and Iraqi officials say they are going ahead with the agreed plans for transition from U.S. occupation to an Iraqi interim government. Their comments follow a warning from a senior Iraqi cleric that the security situation in the country would worsen if those plans are carried out.

A spokesman for the U.S. coalition authority said work is continuing to implement transition plans within the agreed timeframe. He said disagreements over some details of that transition are part of the new democratic process in Iraq.

On Sunday, one of Iraq's most influential Shi'ite clerics, Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, warned of growing instability if the United States goes ahead with plans to hand over power to an un-elected interim government.

The current transition plan calls for nationwide caucuses to chose a Transitional National Assembly, which, in turn, would appoint an interim government in June. That government would run the country until elections late next year.

Ayatollah al-Sistani wants a directly elected government from the outset. He said anything else would lack legitimacy. Iraqi and coalition officials say the country is not yet prepared to hold national elections.