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Bremer: Elections in Iraq Not Possible For at Least 1 Year - 2004-02-21


The U.S. civil administrator in Iraq says it will not be possible to organize elections for at least another year.

In an interview, parts of which were broadcast Saturday, by the Dubai-based Arabic television channel Al Arabiya, Paul Bremer said there are technical problems that will take time to fix, and it could be 15 months before valid elections can be held.

Mr. Bremer said problems include the fact that Iraq does not have an election law or legislation to govern political parties, has no voter lists, and has not had a credible census for nearly two decades.

The comments were aired one day after Iraq's most influential Shi'ite Muslim leader was quoted in the German magazine Der Spiegel as saying any delay in elections must not last long. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani insisted the United Nations set a firm date in the near future. He also said any delay would be acceptable only if an interim government has limited authority.

Tens of thousands of the ayatollah's followers marched through Iraqi streets earlier this year after he demanded direct elections before Iraqis regain sovereignty at the end of June.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this week he agrees with the United States that elections were not feasible before the transfer of power on June 30.

Mr. Annan is expected to make recommendations on the transfer next week.

Some Shi'ite leaders in Iraq and members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council are still calling for direct elections before the handover of power takes place.

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