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Iraqi Opponents  Gather in London to Debate their Country's Future

Iraqi opposition groups are gathering for a meeting in London that begins Saturday to debate the political future of the country if President Saddam Hussein is toppled from power.

On the eve of the conference, Iraqi opposition leaders presented a summary of a draft document laying out democratic principles that should be adopted if Saddam Hussein is overthrown.

A summary issued at a news conference said the draft is based on the assumption that the United States will lead a coalition of forces in a war to topple the Iraqi leader.

Delegates says the document was written by a group of 32 Iraqis with support of the U.S. State Department, and it lays out a blueprint for Iraq's transition from a military dictatorship to a democratic state.

Delegate Rend Rahim said the 300-page draft spells out the fundamental goals of the Iraqi opposition, though the debate on the document is far from finished. "The agreement reached by the working group on the broad issues and principles of democratization, constitutionalism, accountability, human rights and federalism represent a very encouraging sign for Iraq's future," she said.

Also at the news conference was Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella group representing several parties.

He had been in Iran earlier this week, and said he does not believe Iran would interfere with a U.S.-led invasion of neighboring Iraq, despite the poor relations between Washington and Tehran.

"Iran has always supported the Iraqi people in their struggle against Saddam Hussein and we believe that Iran will not stand in the way of liberating the Iraqi people," Mr. Chalabi said.

The representative for the Iraqi National Congress also said the London conference will not establish a government-in-exile but could lay the foundation for a provisional government inside Iraq when and if an American-led invasion takes place.