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Bush, Annan  to Discuss Iraqi Situation - 2004-02-03

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is in Washington Tuesday to meet with President Bush and top administration officials for talks expected to focus on the situation in Iraq.

Mr. Annan will join President Bush and his national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, for lunch at the White House.

The Bush Administration is seeking United Nations help to resolve a dispute between the Shi'ite community and the provisional authority over a U.S.-backed plan for a transfer of power by the end of June.

Popular Shi'ite Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is demanding early elections, rejecting the U-S plan to choose the interim government through regional caucuses.

Mr. Annan will meet first with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has told The Washington Post that he may not have recommended an invasion of Iraq if he had known Baghdad was not stockpiling banned weapons.

In an interview published in Tuesday's editions of the Post, Mr. Powell also defended the Bush administration's decision to go to war, saying the deposed Iraqi leader intended to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Powell told the Washington Post that the administration's belief that Iraq possessed banned weapons made the case for war more urgent. He said history ultimately will judge that going to war was "the right thing to do."

The Bush administration justified the U.S.-led military action against Saddam Hussein by citing Iraq's stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons at the time of the invasion. Former chief weapons hunter David Kay has told the U.S. Congress he found none.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.