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http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/21/international/worldspecial/21IRAQ.html Iraqi Politicians to Issue a Protest of Occupation Rule By PATRICK E. TYLER AGHDAD, Iraq, May 20 — Iraq's main political groups said tonight that they were drafting a formal statement of protest to the American and British authorities over their plans to declare an occupation authority in Iraq, which would delay the rapid turnover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government. Iraqi political figures who attended a meeting tonight with David Manning, the foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, said they wanted to work in partnership with Washington and London. But they said they were strongly opposed to the reversal in policy announced to them Friday. Hoshyar Zebari, who was speaking for Massoud Barzani, the leader of the largest Kurdish faction, told Mr. Manning that the allies needed "a political partner" in Iraq, but warned that failure to fill the political vacuum with a functioning Iraqi government could incite a strong backlash in the Iraqi population and interference from neighboring states seeking to move into the void. Several speakers warned that the allies, in delaying the formation of an Iraqi government, would provide ammunition to former Baath Party supporters of Mr. Hussein who might contend that the worst fears of Iraqis were being realized: a takeover of Iraq and its oil by Western powers. Several Iraqi political figures said they now wanted to press ahead with the formation of an interim national assembly that could appoint a provisional government, despite resistance from the Bush administration and Mr. Blair's government. In an account of the meeting provided by the Iraqi leaders, Mr. Manning said he would take their written protest and a report of their views back to Mr. Blair. At the same time, the political leaders seemed reluctant to break openly with the allies. Instead, they said they would pursue a strategy to exert political leverage to regain the momentum they had established toward forming a government. "We don't want to clash with them," one Iraqi political figure said tonight. The change in political strategy for postwar Iraq was timed to gain support at the United Nations for a new resolution to lift sanctions and provide a role for the United Nations in the reconstruction effort. The policy was announced last Friday by L. Paul Bremer III, the new civilian administrator here, in a private meeting with Iraqi political leaders. The shift in approach places the United States and Britain at the forefront as occupation powers and opens the way to a series of steps aimed at re-establishing security and rebuilding governing institutions with strong United Nations involvement. It would delay, perhaps for a year or more, the installment of an Iraqi government, allied officials have told the Iraqi political groups. Officials from those groups said the decision was already having a serious psychological impact on Iraqis. Mr. Manning told the Iraqi political figures that the change in policy was forced by political pressures at the United Nations related to the draft resolution that Washington and London have tabled in New York. The allies want the sanctions lifted quickly, but for the United Nations to do so, there has to be an authority in place to do things like sell oil or unfreeze and distribute assets of the former government. An interim Iraqi authority was deemed insufficient for those purposes. "We want to be partners, and we want to leave just as soon as we can," Mr. Manning said. "But we cannot do that unless we leave behind structures that are worthy of you and that are properly assembled." Several officials said Britain had taken the lead in delivering the message to the Iraqi political figures, hoping to persuade European members of the Security Council to vote to lift sanctions. But some Western officials said it was noteworthy that Mr. Bremer, who did not attend today's meeting, was keeping some distance from the dispute. These officials suggested that the White House might be giving Mr. Blair room to maneuver while reserving an option to resume support for the swift formation of an Iraqi government if political developments in Iraq and the Middle East demand it. Earlier this month, Jay Garner, the first civilian administrator sent to Baghdad by the Bush administration, said he wanted to form an interim government quickly from the ranks of the main groups that opposed Saddam Hussein's government for more than a decade. In the meeting tonight, the Kurdish chieftain Jalal Talabani alluded to Britain's past administrative role in Iraq by addressing Mr. Manning as representing "our former masters." He said the victory over Mr. Hussein "will not be consolidated" until "the right of self-determination of the Iraqi people" is secured by Iraqis stepping forward to manage the postwar process and preparations for the first democratic elections. Mr. Talabani said setting up a weak "interim authority," as now contemplated by Washington and London, "will deprive Iraq from independence, sovereignty and diplomatic relations, which is not good for you or for us." Another leading political figure, Ahmad Chalabi, argued that the allies would be taking a negligible risk in forming an interim Iraqi government, "since no government would have complete authority in the presence of hundreds of thousands" of allied troops. Those troops, he said, will represent the real authority in Iraq for some time and are needed by the Iraqis to protect the country's borders, secure the economic base in the oil fields and deter neighbors from meddling in Iraqi affairs. But as it stands, he said, the allies seem afraid to take a risk on an indigenous Iraqi leadership. "Do you realize that what you are giving the Iraqi interim authority in 2003 is far less than you gave the Iraqi government when you occupied Iraq in 1920?" he said, adding, "You have done this before." Mr. Chalabi asserted that when the Ottoman Empire fell after World War I, Britain formed a new Iraqi government and signed a treaty that effectively extended British dominion in the country, while establishing autonomy for the Iraqis who lived in the loose federation of Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. "We are your best friends here," Mr. Chalabi said. "We want to work with you" and want allied forces to "stay a long time" until the country can stand on its own feet economically and militarily. But he also issued what seemed to be a warning that failure to create a sovereign government would backfire. "We do not want to make your presence here an issue," he said. Meanwhile, several former Iraqi opposition groups meeting in Berlin echoed their counterparts' complaints, saying they feared that the occupation authority could evolve into an open-ended ruling mandate. "If we don't give Iraq the sovereignty they need, this will create instability in Iraq and that instability will run through to the whole region as well," said Ali Bayati, the London representative for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? The New Yahoo! Search - Faster. Easier. Bingo. http://search.yahoo.com _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk