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Bremer Says Sovereignty Handover Should Happen on Schedule

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2004 – The Coalition Provisional Authority administrator today said he thinks the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people ought to occur on schedule.

In Washington to discuss Iraq issues with President Bush, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III told reporters at the White House that he and Bush discussed preparations for his Monday meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council and other CPA officials in New York City about the future of Iraq.

Coalition plans to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis June 30 hit a snag recently. That's when a senior Iraqi Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Husseini-al-Sistani, voiced his displeasure that members of the Iraqi provisional government wouldn't be established via direct elections, but would be selected through regional meetings.

Bremer said he and the cleric agree that Iraq should now move forward to establish a democratic form of government. Secondly, he continued, the process to establish that new government "should be transparent and representative, involving all Iraqis."

Following the selection of a provisional Iraqi government, Bremer noted, three separate elections are slated next year: election of a constituent assembly, a referendum on the constitution that assembly will write, and elections for a democratic government. Consequently, Bremer, said the coalition and al-Sistani share "a great deal" of agreement in the formation of a new Iraqi government.

"As for being in fundamental disagreement with him, I don't think that's true," Bremer asserted, noting that the Nov. 15, 2003, agreement that laid out the parameters for the June 30 handover of sovereignty benefits all of the Iraqi people.

Yet, Bremer held out to al-Sistani the possibility of compromise, noting, "We've always said we're willing to consider refinements" in the process in establishing Iraqi sovereignty. "That's something that we will be willing to discuss at the appropriate time," he said.

Bremer said he believes there's a role for the United Nations in the process of establishing a democratic Iraqi government to include organizing elections and assisting in the writing of a new Iraqi constitution.

"All of these things, I'm sure, are going to be discussed during the course of the day Monday," he said.

Bremer noted that even though some U.N. officials have voiced doubt that there's enough time to organize general elections throughout Iraq before the slated June 30 handover of sovereignty, Bush and the Iraqi people both want the handover to occur on schedule.

"It's quite clear that the Iraqi people also are anxious to get sovereignty back, and we're not anxious to extend our period of occupation as the occupation authority past June 30," Bremer emphasized. "So we're intending to stick by the timeline that we laid out."

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L. Paul Bremer III

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