It will be impossible to organize elections in Iraq for another year to 15 months for technical reasons, US civil administrator Paul Bremer told Al-Arabiya television in an interview broadcast.
"The main problem is technical ... and this problem will take time ... a year or 15 months," the Arabic-language channel quoted him as saying in a voiceover to an interview.
Bremer noted the absence in Iraq of voter lists or legislation covering elections and political parties as, he said, a visiting UN team highlighted last week.
"These are major technical difficulties which are an obstacle to elections and make it impossible," to hold them.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, whose calls for quick elections have been thwarted by UN chief Kofi Annan, began Saturday to honor the death of imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, massacred at Karbala in 680.
Shiites, which slammed US plans to hand power over to an unelected authority in the summer, have demanded to know when national polls will finally be held.
Thousands of demonstrators marched in the holy city of Najaf on Friday in defiance of the Americans and the United Nations.
Their revered spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who had threatened mass demonstrations if Iraq's first post-occupation government was not elected has insisted that any delay "must not be long".
Sistani, who gave a written interview to the German weekly, Der Spiegel, on Thursday called for a new UN resolution giving "clear guarantees" on when polls will be held.
His position has been backed by key Shiite interim Governing Council member, Muwaffaq Rubaie. "We need to agree on a definite date for elections, and we have to carve this date in stone," Rubaie told AFP on Friday.
At the UN headquarters Thursday, Annan crushed Shiite hopes for snap elections, vindicating US officials who said early polls were impossible because of widespread insecurity and a lack of electoral infrastructure.
Annan, after talks with his advisor Lakhdar Brahimi who headed a mission to Iraq to consider calls by the Shiite majority for early polls, recommended the war-battered country select a caretaker regime for the short term.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly ruled out an original US plan for using unelected caucuses to select the next government. That appeared to be an olive branch to Iraqi Shiites, who had strongly objected to the idea.
Bremer has insisted that the June 30 transfer date is immutable, no matter what political compromises are struck.
Iraq's interim Governing Council members met Friday over what course to take in the fallout from Annan's recommendation for a caretaker government until elections can be held.
Politicians and US occupation officials studied a range of options. But discussions Friday looked to be contentious, as Iraq's fractious ethnic and religious camps pushed various ideas.
Proposals on the table include calling a national conference to choose a caretaker administration, partial elections, or a handover of power to the Governing Council.
In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States had always been "open to refinements and clarifications" over the upended November 15 deal that established the handover timetable.
Meanwhile, the United States, which has pledged more than 18 billion dollars for reconstruction and development in Iraq, is planning to reveal the number of jobs that will be created as a result of its aid, a coalition source said.
The announcements come ahead of a donor meeting in Abu Dhabi next weekend to discuss how to spend the billions of dollars they pledged the shattered nation at a conference in Madrid last October.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Central Intelligence Agency has recalled its Baghdad bureau chief over doubts about his leadership abilities, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday, citing US intelligence sources.
The top CIA officer in Baghdad was replaced in December, in the face of stepped-up attacks targeting civilians and coalition forces, the daily said.
It is the second time that the CIA chief there had been replaced since President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq last May.
© Copyright 2004 AFP