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Iraqi politicians decry plan for advisory board

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 3, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi political leaders lashed out Monday at a plan by the top U.S. civilian administrator here to appoint an interim advisory council instead of convening a national conference to choose a transitional government, saying that U.S. officials had reneged on earlier assurances and that many Iraqis would not accept the decision.

Leaders of seven key political groups held an emergency meeting Monday on the decision by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq, to select 25 to 30 Iraqis to serve on an interim political council whose powers would largely be limited to advising U.S. officials on policy issues and nominating Iraqis to serve in senior positions in government ministries.

"We are skeptical this is going to work," said Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, which has close ties to Pentagon officials and was until recently an exile group based in London.

Qanbar said the seven groups, including two parties representing ethnic Kurds and two representing Shiite Muslims, want to soon have an interim Iraqi government with clearly defined authority for various aspects of governance instead of an "advisory board to Bremer."

Bremer defended his approach at a news conference Monday, suggesting he faced a choice between giving Iraqis time to select an interim council, or handpicking one based on consultations with Iraqis in an effort to quickly assemble a group that could advise U.S. officials on aspects of the reconstruction.

"We think it's important for the Iraqi people to be seen to be involved in some very important decisions that are going to have to be made in the weeks and months ahead, and we have felt the best way to get that forward quickly is to broaden our consultations, to step up the pace of our consultations, and to arrive at a decision about the political council rather quickly," he said.

Bremer also said an advisory council - as opposed to a transitional government with broader powers - was in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution that gives the U.S. and British governments the authority to run Iraq until a constitution is written, national elections are held and a new government is in place.

Blix makes final report

UNITED NATIONS - U.N. inspectors found no evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but had many questions and leads to pursue when their searches were suspended just before the U.S.-led invasion, chief inspector Hans Blix said in his final report Monday.

But the United States and Britain have barred U.N. inspectors from returning to Iraq. Instead, Washington and London have deployed their own teams and Blix said they have not requested any information or assistance from U.N. inspectors.

In the report to the Security Council, Blix said U.N. inspectors "did not find evidence of the continuation or resumption of programs of weapons of mass destruction or significant quantities of proscribed items."

But, he said, the inspectors had many questions about its chemical and biological programs when they left shortly before the March 19 invasion.

He said UNMOVIC inspectors are ready to resume work, to confirm any findings since their departure, and to continue monitoring Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs.

The council is expected to discuss Blix's report on Thursday.

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