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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 18:28 GMT
UN rules out poll before Iraq handover
Kofi Annan
Mr Annan said the UN is working on recommendations for Iraq's future
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says it is not feasible to hold elections in Iraq before the United States hands over power at the end of June.

But he said the transfer of power to an interim Iraqi administration should go ahead as planned by the end of June.

The US wants to create an interim Iraqi government using caucus-style voting, but the majority Shia have called for direct elections.

A UN team has been in Iraq to assess whether elections would be feasible.

Mr Annan said the United Nations was working on recommendations on how to form an interim government until elections can be held.

We'll be able to work with the Iraqis and the coalition to find a mechanism for establishing an interim government
Kofi Annan
He said he had put forward these viewpoints at a meeting with more than 40 delegations at the UN, attended by Lakhdar Brahimi who headed the UN's envoy to Iraq.

"We shared with them our sense of the emerging consensus or understanding that elections cannot be held before the end of June," he said.

Widespread criticism

Mr Annan's comments back the United States position on elections in Iraq.

The UN had been asked by the White House to come up with proposals for Iraq's political future after the leader of the Shia Muslims, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, objected to its plans.

"We hope that as we move forward, we'll be able to work with the Iraqis and the coalition to find a mechanism for establishing a caretaker or interim government until such time as elections are organised," said Mr Annan.

But he did not give any details on what those mechanisms might be when he talked to reporters on Thursday.

Paul Bremer, chief US administrator for Iraq, earlier confirmed that the date of 30 June for the handover of power would still hold.

He said that although the formula for setting up a new Iraqi government might change, the date would remain firm.

Washington had wanted regional meetings to select a new government, which in turn would draft a constitution - with elections postponed until at least the end of 2005.

But the plans were met with widespread criticism, particularly from the Shias who insisted that direct elections were the only way forward.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Susannah Price
"The UN is under pressure to come up with solutions for Iraq"




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