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Iraqi Opposition Groups Meet in London to Discuss Post-Saddam Gov't - 2002-12-15

Iraqi opposition leaders meeting in London are debating position papers on how Iraq should be governed if President Saddam Hussein is deposed.

Delegates at the London conference are trying to reach a consensus on forming a coordinating committee that would present a united face to the world of the often splintered Iraqi opposition.

Officials at the conference say between 30 and 50 delegates would sit on the committee. But debates continued Sunday on who should get seats and who would lead the panel.

Kurdish leader Hoshyar Zebari, a spokesman for the conference, said the coordinating committee should include all Iraqi opposition political parties, ethnic groups, religious orders and it should be geographically diverse.

Another conference spokesman, Hamid Baiti of an Iran-based Shi'ite Muslim council, said the coordinating committee will not be a government in exile. "For the future government, we have to consider people inside Iraq. We can't just establish a government outside and impose it on Iraqi people. So the transitional government or the interim government is going to be established in Baghdad after the fall of the Saddam regime," Mr. Baiti said.

Delegates have said they want a plan in place to quickly install an Iraqi run administration in Baghdad in the event of a U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

The spokesmen said there is widespread agreement at the conference that the Iraqi people would oppose foreign military occupation, or imposition of an American military administration before a transition to Iraqi self rule.

The Iraqi opposition conference is being held following several false starts and much prodding from the United States. President Bush's envoy to the Iraqi opposition, Zalmay Khalildad, is at the conference. He has urged delegates to seek consensus on key issues as they debate how to prepare Iraq's transition from military dictatorship to democracy.