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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 15:29 GMT
Disputes mar Iraqi opposition talks
Delegates at the Iraq Opposition Conference
The fractious opposition is trying to reach consensus
There have been stormy scenes at the Iraqi opposition conference being held in London to try to map out a future for Iraq after Saddam Hussein.

Sharp disagreements have emerged among the more than 300 delegates over the composition of a committee which could eventually provide the nucleus of a transitional government.

Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim (r) of Sciri
Main groups at conference:
  • Iraqi National Congress (INC)
  • Iraqi National Accord (INA)
  • Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (Sciri)
  • Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
  • Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
  • Movement for Constitutional Monarchy (CMM)

  • The groups have extended their talks into an unscheduled fourth day, as they struggle to find consensus on a future path for Iraq.

    At one point, US President George W Bush's envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, stormed out of the heated meeting.

    The BBC's Jim Muir at the conference says nobody expected this to be an easy gathering, so the vocal exchanges and angry walkouts came as no surprise.

    Participants finally agreed that the follow-up committee on opposition policy - initially panned to have 20 members - will include 50, so that all the factions can be accommodated.

    But - our correspondent adds - deciding who will actually take up those positions is turning out to be one of the sticking-points and more hours of wrangling lie ahead over that.

    'Unresolved issues'

    Another difficult issue is the constitution which the opposition would like to see if it took power after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

    The Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM) wants a referendum on whether the country should remain a republic, or restore the monarchy which was overthrown in 1958.

    Zalmay Khalilzad
    US envoy Khalilzad lost patience at one point

    Delegates said that the blueprint for the transitional period of power in post-Saddam Iraq did now include such a provision.

    However, some CMM delegates were unhappy about plans for a three-member "sovereignty council" that would operate as a head of state during the initial period.

    Other groups who are unhappy with the current drafts are women and tribal chieftains, who say they are being excluded from the steering committee.

    Sunni Arabs have complained that the conference is disproportionately dominated by Shias and Kurds.

    The United States has shied away from supporting the creation of a transitional Iraqi government in exile.

    But behind the scenes, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding an intensive series of meetings with various delegations and leaders.

    Open in new window : Iraqi opposition
    Views from the conference

    "The Iraqi people will find the US standing with them to make a better future," he said.

    Mr Khalilzad, has said he is encouraged by the way the conference is going.

    He added that the US hoped the Iraqi military would be part of the liberation of their country.

    The conference has drawn up a list of 49 Iraqi officials - starting with Saddam Hussein and his two sons - who should face trial, after a change of regime.

    Other officials will be offered amnesties.

    Key stories





    See also:

    15 Dec 02 | Middle East
    10 Dec 02 | Middle East
    03 Dec 02 | Middle East
    11 Oct 02 | Middle East
    27 Nov 02 | Middle East
    02 Oct 02 | Middle East
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