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US Expresses Concern About Iraqi Governing Council's Performance - 2003-11-12

Many members of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council are becoming openly skeptical that they can meet the December 15 U.N.-imposed deadline for establishing a timetable for a new constitution and elections. Council members say they now support the formation of a provisional government, while a constitution is written and elections held. The U.S.-appointed 25-member Iraqi Governing Council took office in early July, promising to work quickly toward drafting a new constitution that would pave the way for democratic elections to be held next year.

Four-months later, U.S. officials say they have serious concerns about the performance of the council, which has not even decided how to choose delegates to a panel that would draft the constitution.

Council members have countered that they cannot work quickly because all their decisions must first go through the U.S.-led administration in Iraq.

The holder of the Governing Council's rotating presidency this month, Kurdish-leader Jalal Talabani, recently complained that council members are also being pressured to make quick decisions about issues which require delicate negotiations.

Nevertheless, Mr. Talabani's son and spokesman, Qubad Talabani, tells VOA that council members are doing their best to address the problems.

"The Governing Council understands that it needs to reorganize itself into a more effective decision-making body," he said. "It realizes that there is a lack of executive authority within the Governing Council and members are seriously deliberating amongst themselves to find a mechanism that would give them more executive authority."

But coalition officials are indicating that may not be enough.

Faced with increasingly violent Iraqi resistance and criticisms about their occupational role in the country, officials here have begun looking at ways to speed up efforts to organize a new Iraqi government and hand over power as soon as possible.

One idea that has been suggested is to follow the model used in Afghanistan, creating a provisional government with more authority that would allow the U.S.-led administration to more quickly reduce its role. The transitional government would rule until a new constitution is in place and elections can be held.

Governing council member, Adnan Pachechi, says he and many of his colleagues support the idea. He says creating a provisional government would give Iraqi leaders more time to draft a constitution. "In order to have a proper constitution, you need many, many things," explained Mr. Pachechi. "You need, first of all, a population census. You have to decide what is the voting system. You have to overhaul the judicial system so that it can handle any complaints that may arise about the voting. All these things will take time. And we are not prepared really to wait that long."

Coalition officials are not saying if any decision has been made about changing the current structure of the Governing Council. But political analysts say the Bush administration is not likely to dissolve the Governing Council, since that option, too, would take time.