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19 February 2004

Annan Says Direct Elections in Iraq Not Possible Before June 30

Says first priority is to create caretaker government to receive sovereignty

By Judy Aita
Washington File Staff Writer

United Nations -- Secretary General Kofi Annan February 19 said direct elections cannot be held in Iraq before the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) transfers sovereignty to Iraqis June 30.

"The major consensus or understanding (is) that elections cannot be held before the end of June, that the June 30 date for handover for sovereignty must be respected and that we need to find a mechanism to create a caretaker government and then help prepare the elections later," the secretary general told journalists.

"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 interim government until such time as elections are organized," Annan said.

After meeting with his special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who led a mission to Iraq to discuss the election issue, Annan shared Brahimi's preliminary findings with the so-called "group of friends of Iraq" -- 46 nations that include members of the U.N. Security Council and Middle East countries.

Brahimi welcomed the support of the group of friends in "the re-engagement of the United Nations in Iraq."

"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," Brahimi said.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said that Brahimi's first report addressing the issue of elections is still being finalized. It will then be submitted to the Iraqi Governing Council, the CPA, and the Security Council. The CPA also has said that under the current circumstances, direct elections are not feasible before the June 30 transfer of sovereignty.

"Then the Iraqis will have food for thought to think through the next steps," he said.

"We'll have to see what follows next. The Iraqis will think through the implications and recommendations on elections and should they want help in establishing a ... caretaker government" the United Nations will be ready to help, Eckhard said.

Any ideas on an interim or caretaker government "have to come from Iraqis. I don't think you'll see (the secretary general) imposing a solution," the spokesman said.

Nevertheless, Eckhard said, "it is safe to say Mr. Brahimi's intention is to remain engaged in this issue."

Eckhard said that the secretary general told the group of friends "that the United Nations now has a better insight into and understanding of the needs, concerns and expectations of the Iraqi people. He particularly drew attention 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 optimum security and political conditions," the spokesman said. "The secretary general emphasized that we do not want to give the impression that Iraq's fate be decided over the heads of its people, stressing the need to engage the Iraqi people further as they chart their own destiny."

The spokesman said that the final report of the Brahimi mission should be ready for distribution the week of February 23.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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