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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] British official says Iraq handover could take years http://www.dailystar.com.lb/21_05_03/art22.asp British official says Iraq handover could take years Occupiers won't give up power to 'self-appointed individuals' without elections 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 people." 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. Agencies _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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