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US Delegation to Meet with Iraqi Opposition Members Tuesday - 2003-04-12

The United States will convene a meeting of Iraqis in the southern city of Nasariyah Tuesday to discuss creation of an interim Iraqi governing authority. U.S. officials hope the interim authority can take shape within a matter of weeks.

The Nasiriyah meeting will bring together Iraqis from newly-liberated areas, and opposition figures and emigres who have been working with the United States for months now on how to organize a government after the fall of Saddam Hussein. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will chair the conference, which will begin the process of setting up an interim Iraqi administration:

"We expect this to be the first in a series of regional meetings that will provide a forum for Iraqis to discuss their vision of the future and their ideas regarding the Iraqi interim authority," he said. "We hope these meetings will culminate in a nationwide conference that can be held in Baghdad, in order to form the Iraqi interim authority."

Plans call for the initial post-war civil administration to be run by a team lead by retired U.S. Army general Jay Garner. That will be phased out and replaced by the interim Iraqi authority, which in turn will give way eventually to an elected Iraqi government.