Top Iraqi says elections possible

Jan. 23, 2004 at 1:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- A leading member of Iraq's National Council Friday contradicted the U.S. view there is not enough time to organize elections by the June 30 deadline.

Ahmed Chalabi, a former president of the U.S.-appointed Iraq Governing Council, told a meeting at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank, he believes a report by U.N. experts written in August confirmed it would take six months to set up nationwide Iraqi elections.

However, Chalabi admitted he had not read the report. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has so far refused to show it to the council because it was an internal document, Chalabi said.

A U.N. spokesman Friday confirmed to UPI the report exists. He said it had been submitted by an election expert who had visited Iraq in August, but declined to comment further. The spokesman said the report was "an old document" and "the political enviromnent has since changed."

Chalabi dismissed the U.S. plan for creating an interim government by holding caucuses in Iraq's 18 provinces as "not an easy concept to reconcile with democracy." Under the U.S. proposal the interim government would create a constitution and prepare for national elections.

But Chalabi said: "Democracy is associated with elections. What some people are trying to do now is to achieve democracy without elections." The council, Chalabi said, "does not seek to find reasons why elections are not possible, but seeks ways to make them possible."

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