By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent
US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has said it will take more than six months to set up a new Iraqi government after Saddam Hussein has been removed.
Speaking on American television, he also said the United Nations can have a role in bringing assistance to the Iraqi people.
Mr Wolfowitz spoke of an interim authority
Mr Wolfowitz has been heavily involved in the planning for a post-war Iraq, a topic that is attracting growing interest and controversy.
In a series of American television interviews, he set out some of the steps that are likely to take place.
Setting up a new Iraqi government, he said, would take longer than it took the Kurds to set up a self-governing area in the north after the 1991 Gulf War.
But he insisted the aim would be to move as quickly as possible.
"We have spoken with Iraqis inside and outside the country about this notion of an interim authority that would be a bridge from our initial administration to an eventual government that represents Iraqi people," he said.
Mr Wolfowitz suggested the Americans would start immediately to try to establish basic administration and services in the country.
Among the issues provoking most debate within the administration and with America's coalition partners is the potential role of the UN.
Mr Wolfowitz, one of the more hardline members of the administration, seemed to play down that role.
He said the UN could help with aid and reconstruction but that the US goal was not to transfer government control in Iraq to another external body.