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President Bush, Bremer Review Iraq Transitional Government Plan - 2004-01-16

President Bush meets with the U.S. administrator for Iraq Friday to review plans for transferring authority to a transitional government. The leader of Iraq's Shi'ite majority is rejecting the U.S. plan.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says President Bush meets with Ambassador Paul Bremer as discussions continue about how to refine or improve the transition plan.

That deal calls for regional conferences to select a national assembly that would then appoint a transitional government.

Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims rallied against the U.S. plan Thursday, backing calls by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to choose a transitional government through direct elections.

Mr. McClellan says there is not enough time to conduct a census and come up with voter rolls before July's scheduled transfer of power.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says discussions are continuing with Ayatollah Sistani to address his concerns. Mr. Powell told VOA that it is better to be debating the course of Iraq's transition to democracy than dealing with the previous government of Saddam Hussein.

"It's more exciting to be talking about how we are going to make democracy work than a dictator in Baghdad or weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Following his Washington meetings with President Bush, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bremer will go to New York where he and members of the Iraqi Governing Council will meet Monday with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The Bush administration says it still hopes the United Nations will play a vital role in post-war Iraq, but security concerns have so far limited the U.N. presence on the ground.