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UN Team May Finish Iraq Election Survey in One Week - 2004-02-09

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says he expects his political team in Iraq to wrap up its mission and return to New York in about a week. Mr. Annan is closely monitoring the team's activities.

Secretary-General Annan told reporters Monday he is pleased with the reception his political team has received in Baghdad. "So far, so good. The atmosphere has been good. They have been well received and there's been very good and frank discussions," he said.

Mr. Annan's spokesman said the secretary-general is in regular contact with his special political adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, who is leading the Baghdad team.

He said Mr. Brahimi had already met heads of most of the main political factions in Iraq, and would soon meet with the leader of the majority Shiite community, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Mr. Brahimi's team is charged with mediating a dispute over the feasibility of direct elections before the U.S. and British led Coalition is due to leave in June.

The secretary-general said the tight deadlines mean the team will have to work quickly. "And so, I think they will be there for about a week or so. I would love to be able to give my decisions to the Governing Council before the end of the month," he said.

Mr. Annan again left open the possibility of pushing back the June 30 deadline for the hand-over of power to an Iraqi civilian government.

Nevertheless, senior U.N. political officers told reporters Monday they are making contingency plans for possible elections before the deadline. They said under normal circumstances, it takes about four months to lay the groundwork necessary for a credible election in a post-conflict situation.