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Britain:  Iraq's Transition to Democracy Faces Crucial Test - 2004-04-22

Britain says Iraq's transition to democracy faces a crucial test because of increased terrorist attacks, and London is pushing for the United Nations to lead the way toward creation of a new Iraqi government.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he wants a new U.N. mandate in Iraq before the scheduled June 30 handover of sovereignty to a provisional Iraqi government.

?The United Nations is the body that has the international legitimacy to be able to certify and help guide the process of political transition,? he said.

Mr. Blair says the anti-coalition militants in Iraq are fighting to prevent a successful transfer of power from the U.S.-led occupation authority.

?This is an extraordinary and crucial moment in Iraq's development, which is why so much fighting and terrorism is going on to stop it," he said. "If we can construct a political process that has legitimacy in Iraq, that is a transition towards a democratic Iraq at the end of 2005, that would be a huge thing.?

The prime minister said he discussed U.N. security concerns last week in a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is reluctant to send large numbers of personnel back to Iraq after two deadly bombings last year at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

Mr. Blair said those attacks, and others, like the series of suicide bombings Wednesday in the British-controlled southern sector of Iraq, should not deter Iraq's reconstruction.

?We can not allow people who are prepared to blow up and kill U.N. workers to determine what the international community does," he said. "These people who committed these atrocities in Basra or south of Basra yesterday, I mean, these are evil, barbaric people who should not have a stranglehold over the future of Iraq.

Earlier, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said consensus is emerging on the U.N. Security Council to pass a new resolution, possibly next month, establishing procedures for the transfer of sovereignty.