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Iraqi Leader Affirms January Election Timetable - 2004-09-14

Interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer says elections in his country should be held as planned in January despite mounting violence, unless the United Nations says it is not possible.

Following meetings with officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Iraqi President al-Yawer said it will be a challenge to have elections on time, but they should go ahead.

"We are working day and night to meet and respect the dates of the election in January and unless the United Nations says that it's impossible to hold it, we're going to hold the elections at that time," said Mr. al-Yawer.

The Iraqi leader also said that his country wants further help from NATO so that there will be a safe environment for the elections.

NATO has a small training mission under way in Baghdad, and Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance is now considering greater involvement.

"NATO will speedily implement - the decision has been made - the training mission in Iraq, and will certainly also at some later stage discuss a report I have written, also an instruction of the NATO heads of state and government, on what further can be done by NATO to support the Iraqi security institutions," he said.

NATO ambassadors are expected to discuss possibilities for expanding the training Wednesday, though no decision is anticipated. NATO ambassadors have ruled out a direct role for the alliance in peacekeeping because of opposition by European critics of the Iraq war such as Germany and France.

Meanwhile, U.S. NATO ambassador Nicholas Burns says it is NATO's obligation to expand its small existing training mission in coming months. In a statement, he said the United States is confident that the alliance will do so.