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Explosions Rock First Meeting of New Iraqi Assembly - 2004-09-01

Iraq's National Council opened its first session to the sound of mortar rounds fired at the building. The 100-member council, picked recently at a national conference, is a legislative body that is to help govern the country until elections in January 2005.

Delegates took their oaths as members of the National Council, appearing to ignore the occasional blast of a mortar round fired at the compound where the ceremony was held.

Minister of State Kasam Dawood read a statement from Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi outlining some of the goals he shares with the new 100-member legislative body.

He says the Iraqi government will stand-up to all outlaws and all those who are trying to derail the new Iraq. He says, we will establish and rule of law. I wish success to the council and peace for the new country.

Reporters counted at least six blasts from mortar fire as the swearing-in ceremony got under way - none of which hit the building. One person was reported wounded when a mortar hit a checkpoint outside.

The National Council was chosen by delegates at a 1,000-member conference in August to set the legislative agenda for Iraq from now until elections are held in January 2005.

The Council has come under criticism by some Iraqis, who see it as rubber-stamp body for the government. Council member Younadim Kanna acknowledged the criticism, but says Iraq's interim government and new assembly is better in some ways than governments of neighboring countries.

"Among all Arabian-Islamic countries it is more legitimate. Most of them came by military coup d'etat and we are here, all the diversities - all Iraqi diversities, religious or ethnic or political diversities and geographic diversities. So it is not the best, but it is a possible one for now in the transition period," Council member Younadim Kanna says.

At the four-day opening session, delegates are expected to agree on the council's by-laws and draw up at least seven standing committees in areas including the economy, health, security and foreign affairs.