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[casi] FW: Iraqi Politicians to Issue a Protest of Occupation Rule

Iraqi Politicians to Issue a Protest of Occupation

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

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

"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.

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