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U.N. Election Team at Work in Iraq

(Negroponte praises selection of Brahimi to head mission)

United Nations -- A team of U.N. election experts dispatched to Iraq by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived in Baghdad February 7 and immediately began meeting with Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and Iraqi officials, a U.N. spokesman announced February 9.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said during his daily press briefing on the 9th that announcement of the details of the mission, including the membership of the team, the fact that it was being led by special advisor to the secretary general Lakhdar Brahimi, and the departure date all were delayed for security reasons.

In January the Iraqi Governing Council and the coalition encouraged Annan to send a technical team to Iraq to examine the process of implementing the November 15 Iraq transition agreement, specifically to see if elections for a transition government would be possible prior to the June 30 deadline for transfer of sovereignty from the CPA to an Iraqi transitional government and, if not, to recommend alternate approaches.

Eckhard said that Brahimi had already met with CPA head L. Paul Bremer; CPA Deputy Sir Jeremy Greenstock; the current president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Kurdish leader Mohsen Abdul Hamid; council members Shi'ite leaders Muwaffak al-Rubaie and Abdelaziz al-Hakim; Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani; Communist Party head Hameed Moussa; and former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi.

The spokesman said that he has no advance details of Brahimi's program.

Brahimi described himself as "in a listening mode," Eckhard reported.

Annan told journalists that he expected the team to be in Iraq "about a week or so." The secretary general said that he wanted to be able to give his decisions to the Iraqi Governing Council "before the end of the month" in order to keep to the schedule set in November.

Annan also said that when members of the CPA and Iraqi Governing Council met at U.N. headquarters in January they "indicated that they would like to maintain the 30 June deadline" for the end of the CPA and handover of authority to an Iraqi transitional government.

"We are working on that assumption but, of course ... we are going to talk to all parties. If the parties were to agree to other arrangements, I think it would be difficult to reject. We will have to consider it," the secretary general said.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said that the United States as well as the rest of the Security Council "are fully behind the secretary general."

Speaking with journalists after a private Security Council meeting with the secretary general February 9, Negroponte praised the selection of Brahimi calling him "very able and outstanding international diplomat."

While the United States "certainly signaled during a number of steps and stages that if [Brahimi] was willing to play a role this is something that we would very much welcome," the ambassador stressed that Brahimi's selection to head this new mission was the secretary general's choice.

Asked about the importance of sticking to the June 30 deadline for the transfer of power in Iraq, Negroponte said that the United States is "very committed to the June 30 deadline. This is a date of the utmost importance to us."

Nevertheless, the ambassador said that "the United Nations has a vital role in this process and we very much wanted to engage the United Nations in this phase." Therefore the final recommendations of the mission, however they relate to the deadline, "are going to be weighted with the utmost seriousness."

After the team was on the ground, Secretary General Kofi Annan released a statement February 7 saying that "the U.N. team will endeavor to meet with representatives of all constituencies and listen to all Iraqi views and perspectives, without excluding any. I hope the work of this team will help resolve the impasse over the transitional political process leading to the establishment of a provisional government for Iraq."

"I firmly believe that the most sustainable way forward is one that comes from the Iraqis themselves," Annan said in the statement. "Consensus amongst all Iraqi constituencies is the best guarantee of a legitimate and credible transitional governance arrangement for Iraq."

"I encourage efforts by the people of Iraq to form an Iraqi government based on the rule of law that affords equal rights and justice to all Iraqi citizens without regard to ethnicity, religion, or gender. I also remain committed to all efforts aimed at the promotion of all the human rights of the Iraqi people," he said.

"The U.N. will offer whatever help it can to support the right of the Iraqi people to chart their own destiny and to live in peace with respect and dignity," Annan said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

(810) By Judy Aita Washington File United Nations Correspondent


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