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Iran offers Iraq-elections plan

©Associated Press
March 5, 2003

DOHA, Qatar -- Iran offered a plan Tuesday to avert war in Iraq by holding elections supervised by the United Nations, one of several proposals emerging as Muslim leaders prepared for a summit focused on the U.S.-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein.

Arab and Muslim leaders gathered in Qatar for a meeting today of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, the third high-level meeting in a week seeking to avert war.

Calls for the Iraqi president to consider a life in exile have grown as the leaders of the Persian Gulf region wage a determined diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis.

Iran, which announced it was sending a deputy foreign minister to the meeting, called for the United Nations to conduct free elections in Iraq and urged the Iraqi opposition to reconcile with Hussein as part of a plan aimed at averting war.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi announced the plan in Tehran, but it was not clear if Iran would present the ideas to the summit.

"We want a referendum to be held in Iraq and the Iraqi opposition (to) reconcile with the current regime in that country under the supervision of the United Nations," Kharrazi said.

He added, however, that Iran had no intention of interfering in Iraq's domestic affairs.

Organizers of the Qatar summit said the Iraq-U.S. crisis will top the agenda of the meeting.

But they said it's up to the leaders to decide if they will discuss an initiative by the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, urging Hussein to step down to avoid a U.S.-led attack.

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