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U.S. Seeks U.N. Chief's Advice on Iraq 

U.S. Administrator in Iraq Seeks U.N.'s Advice on Plan for Iraqi Self-Rule by July 1

 WASHINGTON Jan. 17 The Bush administration is reaching out to the United Nations to help settle a nagging dispute with Iraqi Shiite leaders about how to choose an interim government by July 1 so the United States can end its political control of postwar Iraq.

The senior U.S. administrator in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, and an Iraqi delegation led by Adnan Pachachi, current chairman of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, plan to confer with Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday in New York.

"The U.N. has a lot of expertise in organizing elections, electoral commissions, electoral laws, has a great deal of expertise it can bring to bear," Bremer said Friday after meeting with President Bush to plot strategy for a clear path to the return of sovereignty to the Iraqis.

Bremer said the mechanics of the plan's election formula could be altered in response to demands from prominent Shiite clerics for direct elections to choose a provisional legislature to elect an interim government and to decide whether American troops can remain in Iraq.

He rejected, however, postponement of the June 30 deadline for ending the U.S. civilian administration handing over power to Iraqis.

"The Iraqi people are anxious to get sovereignty back, and we are not anxious to extend our period of occupation," Bremer said after meeting with Bush, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Seeking the help of the United Nations is an ironic shift for the administration, which sought to keep U.N. participation at a minimum before and during the U.S.-led war last year that deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and ended his dictatorial rule.

"We are hoping that in those meetings on Monday we will be able once again to state the importance that the American government and the coalition attach to the United Nations' playing a vital role in the political and economic development of Iraq and in finding a way to move forward," Bremer told reporters in the White House driveway.

Offering to review the plan's way of choosing an interim Iraqi government through a complex system of caucuses in the country's 18 provinces, Bremer said: "There obviously are a number of ways in which these kind of elections can go forward."

He said he had no "fundamental disagreement" with Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, who has repeatedly pressed the United States for elections.

Three elections are planned for next year, and "we need to try to find a way to go forward with a transparent and representative fashion" to choose an interim government, Bremer said.

He said he doubted direct elections could be arranged before the scheduled June 30 hand-off and made a point of asserting that Annan concurs.

Underscoring the firm U.S. stand on the deadline, Bremer said he expected to return to private life on July 1, with the U.S. administration at an end.


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