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Consensus emerges that Iraq elections cannot be held before 30 June - Annan

19 February 2004 Citing an "emerging consensus," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said elections cannot be organized in Iraq before the 30 June deadline for a transfer of sovereignty - a date he said should be "respected."

In the interim between the handover and the polling, a caretaker government should be established, Mr. Annan told reporters following a meeting with his Special Adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, who just returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq, and the "Group of Friends" on the country.

"We hope that as we move forward we will be able to work with the Iraqis and the coalition to find a mechanism for establishing a caretaker or an interim government until such time that elections are organized," the Secretary-General said, citing an "emerging consensus or understanding that elections cannot be held before end of June [and] that the June 30th date for handover of sovereignty must be respected."

"We need to find a mechanism to create a caretaker government and then help prepare the elections later - sometime later in the future," he added.

[A UN spokesman later said the Secretary-General had drawn attention in particular to the consensus that has emerged that direct national elections are the best way to establish a fully representative and legitimate parliament and government. At the same time, there is wide agreement that elections cannot be successfully achieved unless carefully prepared under optimal technical, security and political conditions.

"He said that more work will be necessary to address fully some important questions that remain unanswered, and voiced his hope that the UN will be able to contribute to addressing these questions once he has approved the team's final conclusions," spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York.

"The Secretary-General emphasized that it is crucial that we do not give the impression that Iraq's fate could be decided over the heads of its people, stressing the need to engage the Iraqi people further as they chart their own destiny."]

Mr. Brahimi noted that the Secretary-General would be "sending his first recommendation - this is not a one-off activity - on the basis of the facts that we have assembled."

"The United Nations will be resuming its work to help the political process, first of all up to the 30th of June and then after the 30th of June when sovereignty will be restored to Iraq," he stressed.

The Secretary-General called the meeting "very good," noting that he and Mr. Brahimi had shared "where we stand, what we hope to do next, and. the state of play."

The Group's 46 members "all expressed their appreciation for the work done by Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi and the team," he added.

Mr. Brahimi welcomed the support of the Group, which he said would be "closely associated with our work and supporting the re-engagement of the United Nations in Iraq."

The Secretary-General later discussed Iraq with members of the UN Security Council during that body's monthly luncheon. "Basically we focused on the next steps, and how one goes about working with the Iraqi people to design a mechanism that would be used for the establishment of an interim administration or caretaker government, and the UN's role in this phase of the transition and post-1 July," he said afterwards.

Asked about his own preferred options, Mr. Annan said he had none. "We need to have the Iraqis discuss it," he stressed. "They must take ownership, discuss it amongst themselves, and we will try and work with them to find a consensus."

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