U.N. Official Sketches Out Iraq Government After June 30
By Gene Harper
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 14, 2004 U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi emphasized today that Iraqi elections scheduled for January 2005 are "the most important milestone" for the country in its progress toward sovereignty.
"There is no substitute for the legitimacy that comes from free and fair elections," he said during a Baghdad news conference. "Therefore, Iraq will have a genuinely representative government only after January 2005."
Brahimi used the briefing to provide preliminary observations on how the Iraqi government should be formed after the June 30 switch in sovereignty. He and his team have been Iraq nearly two weeks, meeting with a wide range of the country's constituencies. They have included Iraqi Governing Council members, governmental ministers, political parties, trade unions, professional associations, women's groups, tribal leaders and academics.
He pointed out that security considerations have restricted the team's movements in parts of the country. "We believe that the present security situation makes it more important and more urgent for the political process to continue," Brahimi said, "and we expect all stakeholders to redouble their efforts to ensure that this process is successfully completed."
The U.N. official said he was confident that "a caretaker government" could be put into place in May. It would be in charge from July 1 until the government to be elected in January is in place.
"We see it as a government led by a prime minister and comprising Iraqi men and women known for their honesty, integrity and competence," Brahimi said. "There will also be a president to act as head of state, and two vice presidents."
He referred to provisions in the Nov. 15, 2003, agreement and the Transitional Administrative Law stating that the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council will cease to exist June 30. "Some members are already assuming other responsibilities," Brahimi said, adding that others "will be called upon to participate in various state institutions."
Brahimi also said he received a "large number" of suggestions that a "large national conference should be convened."
"We see merit in this suggestion. It would serve the all-important aim of promoting national dialogue, consensus building and national reconciliation in Iraq," he said, adding that such a meeting would convene soon after June 30. "The national conference would elect the consultative assembly to serve alongside the government during the period leading to the election of the national assembly, which would take place in January 2005."
Brahimi urged Iraqis to take the important, necessary steps for elections to take place on time. But he cautioned that the security situation "has to improve significantly for these elections to take place in an acceptable environment."
Other concerns Brahimi said he and his team heard involved the status of detainees, and former regime military personnel and Iraqi professionals, such as teachers, doctors and engineers, sidelined by the "de-Baathification" process.
He said his next steps included traveling to U.N. headquarters in New York to brief his findings to Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "I also expect to meet the president and members of the (U.N.) Security Council," Brahimi said. "My recommendations to the secretary-general will be finalized only after I return to Iraq and after we conduct more consultations with more people in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country."