In Iraq, the newly formed Baghdad Citizen Advisory Council held its first meeting. The council was formed under the supervision of the U.S.-led interim administration to give residents of the capital a voice in the rebuilding of Baghdad's infrastructure and institutions.

The head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, called the meeting the most significant event in Baghdad since U.S. forces toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in early April.

"The inception of this council shows that Iraqis are moving toward the day when they will establish a free and representative government," said Mr. Bremer. "In the weeks ahead, we expect to establish a government council as the first step toward that wonderful path."

Thirty-seven members have a seat on the Baghdad Citizen Advisory Council, which has a number of representatives at local, district, and city levels.

Area residents selected the representatives late last month to be their voice in expressing their ideas and concerns to coalition leaders as well as interim Iraqi officials.

The U.S. led administration believes the new council will increase communication and build a foundation for grassroots participation in government. The hope is for the councils to establish the basis of a representative system that can develop into full-fledged democracy.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the coalition administration has been under intense pressure to bring order to the city of almost six million.

In recent weeks, Iraqis have staged protests against the administration for not delivering vital services such as electricity and security quickly enough. Observers have warned that a dangerous gulf was opening up between the expectations of the Iraqi people and what the administration is able to deliver.

The administration clearly hopes the newly formed council will not only be the first step toward democracy, but act as a release valve for the people of Baghdad until conditions in the city improve.