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Bush: Leaders of New Interim Iraqi Govt Could Be Decided Next Few Weeks - 2004-05-19

President Bush says the leaders of a new interim Iraqi government could be decided in the next few weeks. Mr. Bush spoke after briefing his cabinet on the Iraqi situation.

President Bush says he discussed with his cabinet U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's plans for an interim government for Iraq.

He said, ?I anticipate in the next couple of weeks, decisions will be made toward who will be the president and the vice presidents, as well as the prime minister and other ministers.?

During a brief session with reporters, Mr. Bush gave no indication who he might favor for those posts or how they might be chosen. But he said he told his cabinet that the transfer of political sovereignty to the new Iraqi government will take place on schedule on June 30.

?I reminded them that a lot of progress has been made already toward that transfer. Eleven ministries are now run by Iraqi citizens, I might add, capably run by Iraqi citizens,? Mr. Bush said.

But the president said hard work remains. He said the recent beheading of American civilian Nicholas Berg in Iraq shows the true nature of the insurgency battling coalition forces.

?The decapitation of a U.S. citizen reminds us all about the barbaric nature of those who are trying to stop progress toward freedom,? he added.

President Bush went on the praise the efforts of U.S. troops in Iraq and stressed they will accomplish their mission. He did not make any mention of the scandal surrounding the abuse of Iraqi prisoners under American detention.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sat to Mr. Bush's left during the cabinet meeting, while Secretary of State Colin Powell was to his right. The president noted that Secretary Powell is in consultations with U.N. Security Council members on a new resolution dealing with the transfer of power in Iraq and arrangements for Iraqi security.

Earlier, Mr. Bush spoke with the newly appointed head of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ghazi al-Yawar. He replaced Izzedin Salim, who was killed Monday in a suicide bomb attack. During the conversation, President Bush offered his condolences, and vowed to work for a free Iraq.