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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 00:31 GMT
Experts to discuss Iraq election
By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

Scene of the attack on the election workers in Baghdad
Three Iraqi election workers were shot dead on Sunday
A conference to discuss preparations for next month's elections in Iraq is being held in Canada.

But the closed-door event is so secret, organisers will not even reveal the identity and number of the delegates.

However, it is known that some of those attending the forum are international electoral experts, including a number from Arab countries.

The subject of the conference - hosted by Canadian election officials in the capital Ottawa - is clearly sensitive.

The election campaign officially kicked off in the middle of last week, ahead of the elections on 30 January.

Yet such is the level of violence in Iraq so far, there have been few signs of rallies or campaigning there.

A key issue believed to be under discussion at the Ottawa forum is how international observers can monitor the vote when Iraq has become increasingly dangerous for foreigners.

Repairing relations

A number of Iraqi political parties have expressed reservations about the timing of the election, even asking for it to be delayed by six months.

But both US President George W Bush and the interim Iraqi government say the vote should go ahead.

Canada has been anxious to play a positive role in the rebuilding of Iraq.

It opposed the US-led war there but has recently been trying to repair relations with the US.

It is believed Mr Bush asked Canada to host the conference when he visited Ottawa at the beginning of this month.

Canada is often seen as an ally of the US but neutral enough to play the role of honest broker.

An official with the conference says there may be a statement issued when the meeting draws to a close later on Monday.

Footage from the scene of the Najaf bombing


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