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Interim Government to Move Iraqis Closer to Elections

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2004 – The Iraqi government that will take control June 30 will move the country "much closer to direct elections," a Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman said in Baghdad today.

"Iraqis we speak to everywhere say they want two things," Dan Senor said in a press briefing. "They want sovereignty. They want control over their daily government functions and daily lives, and they want the opportunity to direct elect Iraqi officials and hold them accountable."

The new Iraqi government, being sorted out by U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, will only be in control during the interim period between the June 30 handoff and January 2005, when Iraqis are expected to take to the polls.

The interim government will be "preparing Iraq for those direct elections; they will be preparing Iraq for its 2005 budget; and they will be managing the day- to-day government operations during this interim period," Senor said.

He called the current Iraqi Governing Council "the most representative government in the history of Iraq, probably one of the most representative governments in the entire Middle East."

The governing council contains men and women, and representatives from various ethnic groups and religions in Iraq, including Shiia and Sunni Muslims, Kurds, Turkomans and Christians.

Senor said Brahimi is working closely with regional leaders to create "an even more diverse body" for the new interim government.

He noted that the June 30 turnover to a sovereign Iraqi government will end the coalition occupation. But, he added, most Iraqis want coalition security forces to stay past June 30.

"They recognize that there's still a significant terror threat in this country," Senor said. "They recognize that the Iraqi security forces, right now, while albeit having performed bravely and courageously in many cases, are not in a position to defend against this terror threat themselves.

"And so they want the political occupation, if you will, to end, but they still want the security support provided by coalition forces."

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Lakhdar Brahimi

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