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 Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 19:24 GMT
Iraqi exiles plan path to power
Iraqi opposition delegates
About 300 delegates attended the meeting
Iraqi opposition groups meeting in London have outlined a vision for the future of Iraq if President Saddam Hussein is overthrown.

Two documents, agreed after four days of wrangling, set out political principles and structures for a transition period of up to two years.

Open in new window : Iraqi opposition
Views from the conference

Delegates also set up a new committee comprising 75 members - much bigger than originally planned - to act as a focal point for opposition contact with the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council are poised to receive edited versions of an Iraqi Government dossier on its weapons programmes, amid US scepticism about Baghdad's truthfulness.

The edited dossier is reported to be less than 3,000 pages long, while Iraq's original declaration ran to 12,000 pages.

The United States - which is studying the full dossier - does not want any leaks of information that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

War plans

The US and Britain have signalled that they are ready for war if Iraq is found to be in "material breach" of a tough new UN Security Council resolution adopted on 8 November, which paved the way for weapons inspectors to return to Iraq after a four-year absence.

UN weapons inspectors - biological and nuclear weapons experts - widened their search to Mosul, nearly 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Baghdad on Tuesday.

Zalmay Khalilzad
Zalmay Khalilzad brought US backing to the meeting

Other inspectors visited industrial plants and research centres in and around Baghdad.

They are returning to sites they visited in the 1990s as well as ones only recently revealed by Iraq.

The UK Government confirmed on Tuesday that it had begun preparations for a possible military campaign in Iraq.

These include the chartering of shipping to carry heavy equipment to the Gulf.

But no political decisions have been taken, nor have troops been deployed, UK defence sources say.

Iraqi divisions

The Iraqi opposition talks in London were sponsored by the US, in an effort to unite the often fractious dissident groups prior to any overthrow of the Baghdad government.

"The Iraqi people will find the US standing with them to make a better future," said President George W Bush's special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad.

The BBC's Pam O'Toole, reporting from the meeting, says that despite complaints from some quarters, the feeling is the conference has achieved its objectives.

The conference drew 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.

Shia concerns

The number of people on the Iraqi opposition committee trebled from initial plans, as various factions sought representation.

"This has been done to accommodate more delegates who want to participate on this committee," said Nabil al-Moussawi of the Iraqi National Congress.

Most of the seats have gone to representatives of the Shia-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), and Kurdish groups.

About 60% of Iraq's 22 million population are Shia Arabs, although Sunnis have held political and military power for decades.

Sunni Arabs attending the opposition conference have complained that their voices are being given too little weight.

Women and tribal leaders also said they had been excluded from the decision-making process.


Even as the meeting announced a final agreement, five minority Shia groups walked out in protest at the dominance of Sciri.

"This is another dictatorship that we reject," said Jamil al-Wakil, who said the conference organisers had helped Sciri to ignore pluralism and dialogue.

The final declaration outlines steps for managing any transitional period after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

After pressure from the Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM), the plans envisage a referendum on whether the country should remain a republic, or restore the monarchy which was overthrown in 1958.

  Jim Muir reports from central London
"Five islamist groups withdrew in anger"
  Sharif Ali bin al Hussein, Iraqi National Congress
"We are the most optimistic we have ever been"

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17 Dec 02 | Middle East
17 Dec 02 | Middle East
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