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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 00:14 GMT 01:14 UK
Iraq ruling council asserts role
Iraqis stand in front of bullet hole in shop where US troops and Iraqis were involved in confrontation
The US hopes more local authority in Iraq will lessen attacks on its troops
Iraq's new national governing council ended its first full day of work with a decision to send a delegation to the United Nations Security Council.

The delegation would "assert and emphasise the role of the governing council as a legitimate Iraqi body during this transitional period", a statement issued by the council said.

The council - comprised of 25 Iraqi nationals chosen by the US-led coalition occupying Iraq - had also been due to chose a leader but a spokesman said this would be decided later.

As the council met in Baghdad there were at least two attacks against US forces there.

One US soldier was killed and six injured in an ambush on their convoy in the al-Mansur district of the city.

Later an explosion - possibly from a grenade - destroyed a vehicle in a car park close to where the council met.

There were no reports of injuries and the explosion was not reported to be large.

Shia cleric Mohammed Bahr al-Uloum [left] with Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Several ethnic groups in Iraq are represented in the council
The car was parked close to a military cordon set up by US forces around two buildings that hosted the governing council.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond says that the complex of buildings is a high profile target for anyone wishing to attack the coalition.

Also on Monday US President George W Bush met United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan for the first time since the Iraq war.

After the talks in Washington, President Bush said the operation to stabilise the country was making good progress.

He also defended pre-war US intelligence on Iraqi weapons as "darn good", rejecting charges that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein had been inflated.

Mr Annan, for his part, said he was pleased to see the establishment of a council in Iraq.

He called on the international community to come together to help Iraq achieve stability.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned that it is too early to send Iraqi asylum seekers home because of continuing insecurity.

Legitimacy?

The council has the power to nominate and dismiss ministers, and to direct policy - and is also expected to help draw up a new constitution paving the way for free elections.

IRAQI COUNCIL
13 Shia Muslims
5 Sunni Muslims
5 Kurds
1 Christian
1 Turkmen

But critics have complained that it is drawn largely from groups which were previously based outside Iraq, and that selecting rather than electing members will compromise the council's legitimacy.

The US-led coalition will also have the final word, although officials say the council's proposals will be rejected only in exceptional circumstances.

On Sunday US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that attacks on troops in Iraq may increase even further this month.

Mr Rumsfeld was speaking at the start of a week of anniversaries connected with Saddam Hussein:

  • Monday: 1958 coup against the British-backed monarchy

  • Wednesday: Saddam Hussein's assumption of power in 1979

  • Thursday: 1968 revolution staged by the Baath Party

"I'm afraid we're going to have to expect this to go on," said Mr Rumsfeld on Sunday, referring to hit-and-run attacks which have left an estimated 32 US troops dead and scores wounded since the end of major combat on 1 May.




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