Report:U.S. delays Iraq interim government

BAGHDAD, May 17 (UPI) -- The United States and Britain have indefinitely delayed a plan to allow Iraqi opposition forces to form a national assembly and an interim government, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Top American and British diplomats told exile leaders in a meeting Friday that allied officials would remain in charge of Iraq for an indefinite period, Iraqis who attended the meeting told the Times.


The meeting was conducted by L. Paul Bremer, the new civilian administrator.

Bremer was accompanied by John Sawers, a British diplomat representing Prime Minister Tony Blair.

They told the Iraqi political figures that the allies preferred to revert to the concept of creating an "interim authority" — not a provisional government — so that Iraqis could assist them by creating a Constitution for Iraq, revamping the educational system and devising a plan for future democratic elections.

One Iraqi who attended the meeting said Iraqi opposition leaders expressed strong disappointment.

Washington and London have been taking new steps to restore law and order in Iraq.

These conditions have emboldened former members of Saddam Hussein's government and the Baath Party to blame the allies for not making more progress against unemployment.


Bremer earlier issued an order banning up to 30,000 top-ranking members "from future employment in the public sector."

The fear is that a divided or weak interim government will not be able to withstand the intense and at times conflicting ethnic and religious pressures that have tended to divide Iraq.

No date was set for creating an interim authority, and no details about its powers and functions were discussed in the meeting, the Iraqis said. Mr. Bremer said he would meet with the opposition leaders for further discussions in two weeks.

"They retracted what they said before," an Iraqi political figure said. The provisional government idea is gone, he said. As for the idea of convening a national assembly to select a government, he said, "there is no such thing anymore."

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