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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Brahimi makes second visit amid ongoing political divisions

BAGHDAD, 10 May 2004 (IRIN) - As United Nations Special Adviser Lakhdar Brahimi started his second visit to Iraq on Thursday, Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) members continued to debate their own positions amid uncertainty over the transition process.

A "caretaker government" of professional, respected members should be installed by the end of May, just weeks before the 30 June deadline for a scheduled handover of sovereignty to Iraqis, Ahmed Fawzi, a spokesman for Brahimi, told IRIN over the weekend.

"Some people are saying it will be a government of technocrats," Fawzi said. "(Brahimi) is saying it should be professionals respected in society. That doesn't mean they shouldn't have political affiliations."

Brahimi met IGC heads on Thursday and will meet women's groups, tribal leaders, academics and other representatives from civil society to discuss the UN's plans, Fawzi said, adding that much needed to be done before the caretaker government comes to power.

Members of the US-appointed IGC of 25 have expressed concerns that they will be pushed out of governing roles when the council is dissolved on 30 June. Some are worried that the transitional government will assume the cloak of an elected government without the legitimacy a national election would entail.

The UN Security Council has said that the caretaker government should be led by a president, two vice-presidents and a prime minister, a plan supported by the majority of Iraqis. In addition, a "consultative assembly" of up to 75 people should be elected in July to serve alongside the caretaker government, Brahimi has said, a proposal which was supported by an estimated two-thirds of the people Brahimi met during his April visit.

Such a new government is expected to have a Shi'ite Muslim president, a Sunni Muslim and a Kurdish Christian in the two vice-presidential slots, and a Shi'ite Muslim as prime minister, said a spokesman for one of the IGC members who declined to be named. A Sunni Muslim president, Shi'ite and Kurdish vice-presidents and a Sunni prime minister seems less likely, he said.

No names are being announced officially as candidates for any of those slots, the spokesman said.

Shi'ite Muslims, long oppressed under deposed President Saddam Hussein are believed to hold a 60 percent majority in Iraq. Kurds living in northern Iraq have for the most part been running their own affairs for the last 12 years following the Gulf war when a "no-fly zone" was created.

Meanwhile, IGC members are furiously negotiating behind the scenes to work out where they fit into the new governing structure, the spokesman said.

"We don't have time. Everybody says the caretaker government should be functioning by the end of May," said the spokesman. "We all want to have a balance."

Opinion is also divided on the streets of Baghdad over who should be part of the transitional government.

"None of the Governing Council members is suitable to us," said Ali al-Mousawi, a former Iraqi Army general who now runs a private security company in Baghdad. "Anyone who is appointed by coalition forces could cause a civil war."

An estimated 150,000 foreign troops are expected to remain in Iraq following the handover. In addition, up to 4 million Iraqis living abroad may come back to vote.

At the same time, the UN is soliciting applications to create an election commission expected to lead up to 120,000 people in election-related work between now and January, when nationwide elections are planned.

The UN role in Iraq after 30 June has not been decided, Brahimi said in April. UN workers must be able to travel around the country, to hospitals, to city election boards and to anywhere else where election preparations need to be made, he said.

UN staff pulled out of Iraq following an August 2003 suicide bomb attack that killed 22 people, including UN special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Governance




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