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UN Official Urges Iraqis to Choose Interim Government by End of May - 2004-04-27

U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says the job of setting up an interim government in Iraq by the end of June will be difficult, but doable. Mr. Brahimi presented details of a transition plan to the Security Council Tuesday.

Mr. Brahimi told the Council the first order of business should be selecting a caretaker government to take over when the U.S.-led occupation ends June 30. He said the caretaker administration should have limited power, should hold power only until elections can be held next January, and should be composed of people with no intention of running for office.

"Though it will certainly not be easy, we do believe that it shall be possible to identify by the end of May a group of people respected and acceptable to Iraqis across the country, to form this caretaker government," he said.

He said while Iraqis should select members of the caretaker administration, the United Nations and others would be available to help.

The second step, according to Mr. Brahimi, will be to convene a national conference of more than one thousand prominent Iraqis to begin a dialogue on the country's challenges. He outlined a gathering that would be similar to the Loya Jirga, or Grand Council, he helped to organize when he was special envoy to Afghanistan.

"They will no doubt discuss, first and foremost, the security situation and perhaps, contribute ideas on how it should be addressed," he said. "They will also talk about the forthcoming elections and contribute ideas on how to ensure that they are organized in a timely and successful manner."

Mr. Brahimi told the Council security in Iraq remains extremely worrying, especially the siege of the city of Fallujah.

And he expressed hope that the U.S. and British-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) would be able to find a peaceful wa. to end the standoff in Fallujah.

"The CPA is well aware that unless this standoff, and now this fighting, is brought to a resolution by peaceful means, there is great risk of a very bloody confrontation," he said. "They in the CPA know better than everyone else that the consequences of bloodshed could be dramatic and long-lasting."

The U.N. envoy said in the end, the solution to Iraq's problems will have to come from Iraqis themselves, and said the sooner a credible government is in place, the better. For this reason, he urged there be no delay in bringing an end to the occupation by June 30 at the latest.

Security Council nations are reported in consultations on a draft resolution to rally international support behind the new caretaker government. The resolution would also spell out the U.N. role in a post-occupation Iraq.

Ambassadors met in closed session after hearing Mr. Brahimi's briefing, but diplomatic observers expect a long and contentious debate before a draft resolution comes to the floor, probably sometime late next month.