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Alternatives Sought as Council Flounders
Published on Sunday, November 9, 2003 by the Boston Globe
Alternatives Sought as Council Flounders
by Robin Wright and Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Increasingly alarmed by the failure of Iraq's Governing Council to take decisive action, the Bush administration is developing possible alternatives to the council to ensure that the United States can turn over political power at the same time and pace that troops are withdrawn, according to senior US officials in Washington and in Baghdad.

The United States is deeply frustrated with its hand-picked council members because they have spent more time on their own political or economic interests than in planning for Iraq's political future, especially selecting a committee to write a new constitution, the officials added.

"We're unhappy with all of them. They're not acting as a legislative or governing body, and we need to get moving," said a well-placed US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ambassador Robert Blackwill, the new National Security Council official overseeing Iraq's political transition, begins an unannounced trip this weekend to Iraq to meet with Iraqi politicians to drive home that point.

The United States is even considering a French proposal, earlier rejected, to hold a national conference -- like the Loya Jirga used in Afghanistan -- to select a provisional government that would have the rights of sovereignty.

Among several options, the administration is also considering changing the order of the transition if it looks as though it could drag on longer than planned. The United States has long insisted that a new constitution was the essential first step and elections the final phase in handing over power.

But now US officials are exploring the possibility, again backed by other Security Council members, of creating a provisional government with effective sovereignty to govern until a new constitution is written and elections held. This is again similar to Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai has governed while a new national charter is written.

Two weeks ago, Bremer met with the council and bluntly told members that they "can't go on like this," a senior US official in Baghdad said. Bremer noted that at least half the council is out of the country at any given time and that at some meetings, only four or five members show up. Since the council appointed 25 Cabinet ministers in August, the body has done "nothing of substance," the US official in Baghdad added.

Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


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