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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 13:30 GMT
UN urges credible Iraqi election
UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
Brahimi will pass on his recommendations to Kofi Annan
United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said it is "terribly important" for Iraq to have elections but they must be "reasonably credible".

Mr Brahimi has been in Iraq to discuss the feasibility of early elections and the ways the UN could help.

Iraq's top Shia cleric wants the poll to take place before 30 June when the US-led coalition plans to hand over power to an Iraqi authority.

Mr Brahimi did not specify when he thought an election could be held.

Basic questions

"What everyone agrees on is that elections are terribly important," Mr Brahimi told a news conference in Baghdad.

POWER TRANSFER TIMELINE
Feb 2004: Fundamental Law (provisional constitution) to be introduced
May, 2004: Selection of Transitional National Assembly (TNA)
June 2004: TNA to take power; Coalition Authority and Governing Council to dissolve
March 2005: Constitutional Convention elected to draft new constitution
Dec 2005: New constitution; elections and appointment of new government
"But the Iraqi street must know that elections are very complicated process and cannot be achieved unless there are good preparations so that everyone accepts the results," he said.

Basic issues still needed to be examined, he said. These included what kind of electoral system did Iraqis want, who would they choose, and what kind of electoral register would work.

Mr Brahimi said he would submit his recommendations to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in about a week or 10 days, so he can determine how best the UN can help in organising the elections.

On Thursday, Mr Brahimi met top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is calling for early elections, to explain the UN view that a legal framework for elections and a register of voters must be in place before any poll can be held.

Mr Brahimi he believed the talks were useful and that the ayatollah understood the need for proper preparations.

The US says there is no time to organise free and fair elections before the 30 June handover. It wants regional meetings to select a new government, which in turn would draft a constitution - with elections postponed until at least the end of 2005.

The UN delegation was sent to Iraq at the request of the US, following widespread opposition to the plan led by Ayatollah Sistani.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Baghdad says support from Ayatollah Sistani is needed to give legitimacy to the handover, as he commands the respect of Iraq's Shia majority.

Timing of attacks

The US also argues that conditions are not right for elections - and the lack of security has been underlined by a spate of attacks this week.

Two suicide bombings - on Tuesday and Wednesday - killed nearly 100 Iraqis applying to join the country's new police force and army.

Iraqis stand near destroyed cars, 10 February 2004
The new attacks represent a change of tactics by militants
US officials in Iraq have accused Islamic militants of timing their attacks to coincide with the UN visit - with the aim of demonstrating that the conditions do not exist to hold elections.

Washington has warned that more attacks are likely as the June handover deadline approaches.

Ayatollah Sistani wants an interim constitution to be approved by an elected parliament. He has refused to meet US officials, including the top American administrator, Paul Bremer.





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