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Iraqi Delegation Meets with British Leaders - 2003-07-24

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met Thursday with a delegation from Iraq's new governing council. The council members stopped in London for talks after attending a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York.

At a joint news conference after the meeting, the head of the Iraqi delegation, Adnan Pachachi, said he was hopeful that the Iraqi people would be able to elect their own leaders in the near future. Mr. Pachachi said the first step toward self-rule would be to develop a constitution and then to hold a referendum.

"If [the constitution] is approved by the Iraqi people, then elections would be held in accordance with that constitution so that a government will emerge that can derive its legitimacy from the consent of the Iraq people," he said. "Now this whole process, if we can shorten the period, it will probably take about a year. But I do not think it will take more than a year-and-a-half in any case. Anyway, that is our hope and it is in our interests to expedite the whole process."

Mr. Pachachi was asked about his reaction to the killing of Saddam Hussein's two sons by U.S. forces in Mosul.

"The death of Qusay and Uday has been welcomed by the Iraqi people because they were a symbol of all the oppression that was imposed on the people of Iraq for decades," said Mr. Pachachi. "And also there is a [feeling] that their deaths will hasten the end of the acts of violence which have been perpetrated recently."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw emphasized that Saddam Hussein's sons could have turned themselves in.

"The Hussein brothers had every opportunity, even after the coalition forces had liberated Iraq, to offer themselves and to be alive and I think that they made their choice,' he said.

In spite of repeated attempts by reporters, Mr. Straw refused to answer any questions relating to a judicial inquiry into whether, in the weeks before the war, the British government exaggerated the threat posed by Iraqi weapons.