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US Hosts Meetings Aimed at Unifying Iraqi Opposition - 2002-08-09

Leaders or senior delegates from six Iraqi opposition groups meet Bush administration officials at the State Department Friday. It is the latest in a series of U.S.-hosted meetings aimed at unifying the fractious Iraqi opposition and preparing for a post-Saddam era.

The meeting will include the London-based Iraqi National Congress along with Iraq's two main Kurdish parties, Islamic and secular activists and advocates of a constitutional monarchy to replace the current regime. The unity talks are being jointly hosted by the State Department's third-ranking official: Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and his Pentagon counterpart Douglas Feith. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker says the aim is to help the factions prepare for an inevitable change of leadership in Baghdad.

"Obviously there will be a post-Saddam era. And there are many that want to look at how to shape Iraq for that era, when they're pulled out of the darkness that they've lived under with Saddam Hussein and his cronies," Mr. Reeker said.

Regime change in Iraq is a policy goal of the Bush administration, though White House officials said again Thursday the President has made no decision on any particular course of action, and will consult with Congress and U.S. friends and allies as things move forward.