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Iraq: Annan hopes to make decision on elections later this week

17 February 2004 As the United Nations team studying the feasibility of early elections in Iraq heads back to New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that he hopes to be able to make a recommendation on the matter before the end of the week.

Asked if he anticipated making a decision ahead of his scheduled trip Friday to Japan, Mr. Annan said, "I hope I will be able to do that before. I travel."

The Secretary-General was also asked by reporters at UN Headquarters in New York about news reports on the team's activities. "I think I should wait to get the full report of the team before I comment in detail," he replied, adding, "I am looking forward to receiving the team and getting their report before I draw any conclusions."

The leader of the fact-finding team, Lakhdar Brahimi, is expected back in New York on Wednesday from Abu Dhabi, where he is scheduled to meet the Emir. Over the weekend, he was in Kuwait to attend a meeting of foreign ministers from Iraq, its neighbours and Egypt.

The fact-finding team, meanwhile, is expected back in New York this afternoon, according to a UN spokesman, who added that the Secretary-General and Mr. Brahimi have already spoken by telephone.

"But we really don't know yet how things are going to play out at the end of this week before the Secretary-General leaves for Japan on Friday. It's pretty tight," spokesman Fred Eckhard said at a press briefing.

He added that the two halves of the team's report - the technical and the political - must be combined before the Secretary-General can consider the findings, decide what to recommend to the Iraqis and to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), "and decide how and when to do that."

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