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[casi] British official says Iraq handover could take years

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British official says Iraq handover could take years

British official says Iraq handover could take years

Occupiers won't give up power to 'self-appointed individuals' without

Compiled by Daily Star staff

BAGHDAD: The top British civilian in Baghdad said Tuesday that occupying
forces would not hand power to an Iraqi government until elections have been
held  in one or maybe two years.

John Sawers, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's special envoy,  also said
the coalition expects a new Iraqi constitution to grant the Kurds of the
north autonomy over an area larger than the three rebel-held provinces that
the West protected against Saddam Hussein.

The pre-war limits of Kurdish autonomy had been "arbitrarily fixed by
 Saddam" Hussein, and their expansion to reflect the Kurds' demographic
weight would have to be addressed in a new constitution, Sawers said.

"There is widespread sympathy among Arab Iraqis for the notion that there
should be a separate Kurdish entity within Iraq as part of a unified
country," he said. "Quite what the boundaries of that would be is
something . to be discussed quite carefully. It is our view that there
should be no rigid dividing line."

Successive Iraqi governments have balked at giving the Kurds control of the
northern oil city of Kirkuk or the regional capital of Mosul.

Sawers dashed the hopes of opponents of Saddam Hussein who returned in the
expectation of quickly taking the reins, saying he hoped an interim
administration could be formed after a national conference in one or two
months, but that its role would be to draw up a new constitution, leaving
the day-to-day running of Iraq to the US-British occupation.

"I haven't talked to any Iraqi who thinks the job can be done better by some
ad-hoc committee than by the coalition itself," he said. "We can't just give
power to these self-appointed individuals and we're not going to.
"They as politicians obviously want to build on their leadership roles and
attract support in the country, but it will only be possible to hand over
power to an Iraqi government when it has been genuinely elected by the Iraqi

A final UN draft resolution by London and Washington late Monday sought
endorsement of their occupation "until an internationally recognized,
representative government is established by the people of Iraq and assumes
(its) responsibilities."

Previous drafts had spoken of a 12-month period to be renewed as necessary.
The UN Security Council was to discuss the draft resolution on ending
sanctions against Iraq on Tuesday.

"The resolution has some problems," said Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for the
Iraqi National Congress, which holds one of seven seats on a political
council holding talks with Sawers and the US overseer Paul Bremer. "It's not
up to the Americans to delay this government. This is a sovereign issue . We
are allies of the United States but we do not take orders" from them.
He said talks over the transitional administration had not been finalised
yet, "but we think for practical technical and moral reasons, Iraq should be
for the Iraqis."

Sawers said the new schedule laid out by the proposal was actually likely to
be longer than previously thought.

"My instinct is that it will take more than a year and less than two years"
to hold elections, he said. "There is no reliable census which will be
necessary to establish an electoral register."

The seven-strong leadership council of former exiles has been holding talks
with Sawers and the top US official here Paul Bremer, hoping to be able to
quickly form an interim government to run post-war Iraq.

But the British official said the coalition believes that the seven have yet
to demonstrate either their popular support or their ability to run a
country plagued by lawlessness and a shortage of basic services.
"I have sympathy with those people who say that we should not just hand over
power to self-appointed people who have come back from abroad. We want to leave
time for new political parties to form and for new leaders to emerge.

"There is tension between what responsibility you give politicians who have
not yet demonstrated their level of support and what responsibility you give
technocrats who can re-establish effective administration."

Sawers said the job of drawing up a new constitution, to be entrusted to the
coalition's planned interim administration chosen by a national conference
in "late June or early July," should not be underestimated.

The question of the future powers and borders of a regional authority for
the Kurds of the north, as well as the return of homes and land to those
displaced by Saddam Hussein's policy of Arabization, were "immediate and
sensitive issues," he said.

Under Saddam Hussein, large numbers of Arab settlers were brought in to
undermine the community's demographic weight in the two provinces.
Large numbers of Kurds were also driven out and, with the last census dating
back to 1970, there are no reliable statistics on the population, which
includes smaller Turkmen and Christian communities.

"There are some difficult restitution issues that will have to be addressed
in the wake of Saddam's Arabization policy," said Sawers. 


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