BASRA, Iraq - A "nucleus of leadership" in Iraq may be in place within days to guide the country through the decisive selection of an interim government, the U.S. civil administrator said Monday.
Iraq's third-largest city, Mosul, is already moving ahead. Representatives of its tribal and ethnic groups named a cross-section of residents Monday to run municipal affairs alongside the U.S. military.
Facing a critical conference at the end of May to try to establish an interim national government, five Iraqi leaders in the fight against Saddam Hussein have been consulting in recent days.
"The five opposition leaders have begun having meetings, and they are going to bring in leaders from inside Iraq and see if we can't form a nucleus of leadership as we enter into June," said retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the American civil administrator.
"By the middle of the month you'll really see the nucleus of a temporary Iraq government."
The five involved in the consultations are Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani; Ahmad Chalabi of the exiled opposition Iraqi National Congress; Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord; and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose elder brother heads the Shiite Muslim group Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Garner said he expects the emerging leadership to include a former foreign minister, Adnan Pachachi, and possibly a Christian and a Sunni Muslim leader.
Some Iraqi politicians proposed that such a group form a collective executive, but Garner said he didn't know whether that would happen.
Of the Iraqi presidency, Garner said, "I don't know if it will be one guy or five guys or three."
Garner also said he expects the newly appointed L. Paul Bremer, a longtime State Department official, to take charge of the political side of the administration.
Garner, who arrived in Iraq two weeks ago as director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, spoke with reporters during a one-day trip to the southern city of Basra, where he visited a hospital and oil refinery and met with local leaders.
Since Hussein's ouster last month, opposition representatives have met twice under U.S. sponsorship to try to chart a political course for Iraq.
The largest such conference, of perhaps 500 delegates, is expected by late May and is intended to select an executive leadership for an "interim authority" that will govern while Iraqis fashion a new constitution and then hold elections.
Reviewing his office's performance, Garner told reporters that it has done poorly in not quickly establishing a broadcast television station to reach all Iraqis. Only a U.S.-run satellite station, accessible to a few, is operating.
He also said the U.S. planners failed to foresee probably the most significant development: the rampage of looting and arson that has devastated government buildings and some shops and homes.Salaries, which most Iraqis have not received for weeks, were a prime subject of both the hospital and refinery visits.
Emad Ehthan, an engineer at the Shueiba oil refinery, said Garner promised the staff $20 emergency payments like those given some civil servants in Baghdad, and said he might raise it to $30.
At Basra General Hospital, the director, Dr. Mustafa Ali, said the reconstruction office also promised help with equipment, drugs and security.
In Mosul, about 230 representatives from the city's main families and ethnic groups voted for mayor and 23 delegates to the 32-member City Council, said Fadhil Mirani, one of the Kurdistan Democratic Party's representatives to the meeting.
Retired army Gen. Ghanim al-Boso, an Arab, was selected as mayor; a Kurd, Khasro Goran, was chosen as deputy mayor; and an ethnic Assyrian and an ethnic Turk were selected as the mayor's assistants.