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Iraq: polls need to be held as early as but not earlier than possible - UN envoy

13 February 2004 The head of the United Nations team assessing the prospects for early elections in Iraq said today the timing should not be held prisoner to any deadline.

"We need to organize elections as early as possible as but not earlier than possible," Lakhdar Brahimi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Adviser, told the press following a meeting in Baghdad with the Iraqi Governing Council.

Asked about reports that there was not enough time for balloting before the 30 June deadline set by the United States-led occupying forces for the transfer of sovereignty, Mr. Brahimi replied, "What I said and what I repeat is that there is a consensus among the Iraqis - and this is important - that it is by elections that the permanent Iraqi government which will rebuild the country will be formed."

He went on to recall that he had stressed the need to fulfil the conditions which will enable Iraq to hold elections in an appropriate environment. "The technical members of our team are talking to many parties about these issues," he added.

Mr. Brahimi also said he was confident Mr. Annan's decision on the issue would be welcomed "because they will be impartial recommendations with no other objective than to facilitate matters for the Iraqis who are living through hard times."

He said his team's consultations would be completed during the next few days and he would submit a report to the Secretary-General, who will in turn make recommendations to the Iraqis with a date for the elections.

During the week he has been in Iraq, Mr. Brahimi has consulted with a wide spectrum of Iraqis and the United States-led Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) on the feasibility of holding elections before the return of sovereignty as well as on other alternative courses of action.

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