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UN Special Envoy Defends New Iraqi Government Plan - 2004-06-02

The U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, has vigorously defended his role in the selection of Iraq's interim government, but acknowledged not everyone will be pleased with the choice.

Lakhdar Brahimi said that he consulted many people from Iraq's diverse societies before forming the new interim government that is to take power.

The new Cabinet, introduced at a ceremony Tuesday in Baghdad, is composed of lawyers, politicians, academics, human rights activists, engineers and businessmen with various ethnic and religious backgrounds. The makeup of the government is in stark contrast to the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein, who chose his deputies and ministers among a select group of Sunni Muslims in his hometown of Tikrit.

The U.N. envoy said that he is aware that some Iraqis will not be pleased with the interim leadership that is seen by many here as having too strong ties to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

?Some will consider that this or that choice as controversial at the very least,? he said. ?But it is impossible for an exercise of this sort to be significantly different. The overall makeup is reflective of a sometimes extremely difficult negotiation process, which had realistic compromises. I very much hope they will see that even though this government may not reflect everything they had hoped for, it was the best outcome that was possible at this time.?

The 70-year-old diplomat denied media reports in Iraq suggesting that he failed to fully carry out his U.N. mandate in selecting an interim government. He lashed out at reports that have criticized him as having done little more than to rubber stamp choices put forth by the Iraqi Governing Council and the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer.

Mr. Brahimi said that he was sent to Iraq at the request of Mr. Bremer and the Governing Council to facilitate the process, not to dictate its outcome. ?You in the press have had a field day from considering that I was here forming a government single handed, to I do not know what other speculations,? he said. ?The process, I will tell you, you know, one or two factors. We have been around. We have been listening to people. We have been listening to suggestions, including from the Governing Council and the CPA, but 10 or 15 days ago, we had to start moving toward the formation of a cabinet. So what happened was the creation of a working group, composed of the CPA, ourselves and the Governing Council.?

Coalition officials had insisted it would be Mr. Brahimi who would make the final decisions on the makeup of the interim Cabinet.

Questions about the U.N. envoy's ultimate role in the process began to surface last Friday, after the U.S. appointed Iraqi Governing Council chose one of its own members, Iyad Allawi, for the powerful position of prime minister. Some members of the Council complained about his backing of the U.S. candidate for interim president, rather than the Council's own.

Council member Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, a tribal sheik who is critical of the occupation, was appointed president on Tuesday after another council member, Adnan Pachachi, turned down Mr. Brahimi's offer.

The U.N. envoy says he fears the controversy surrounding the selection of the prime minister and president has already eroded some Iraqi confidence in the new government.

Mr. Brahimi says Iraq's new interim leaders, whose main job is to prepare the country for national elections by January, need to quickly establish their own credibility and prove the skeptics wrong.