Knight Ridder News
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Creation of a home-grown national government for Iraq will be delayed until mid-July, the American official overseeing reconstruction of Iraq said Wednesday.
L. Paul Bremer told reporters that expectations for a political convention in June to choose an interim Iraqi government would not be met because negotiators needed time to create a more diverse group of political leaders.
"I don't think it will be in June," he said during a tour of a newly renovated jail in central Baghdad. "We're talking now like some time in July to get a national conference put together."
The delay is the latest setback for Iraqi hopes of swiftly assuming control of the nation from the United States. Iraq has had no formal government since the war ended. Government ministries are being run by Iraqi staff with American supervision.
The United Nations Security Council was expected today to adopt a resolution that would let the U.S.-led coalition run Iraq until a government is established and lift sanctions so that money from oil sales could be used for reconstruction. The resolution put no limits on how long the United States could administer Iraq, but it would let the Security Council review how Iraq was being run after 12 months.
While officials worked to craft a government, Marines were hoping to head out soon.
Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, said Wednesday that 60,000 Marines now in Iraq and Kuwait probably would be home by late August. The final decision would be made by Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who commands coalition military operations, Hagee said.
In Iraq, seven Iraqi leaders from groups across the political spectrum have been trying to position themselves for months as the only viable force capable of running the fractured nation.
But the Iraqi coalition of seven has been unable to build a broad natural constituency within Iraq. Key members are viewed with suspicion in Iraq, especially those who fled the nation during Saddam Hussein's reign.
Ahmed Chalabi, the exile favored by Pentagon hawks, is seen by many in Iraq as a rich outsider and a thief because of an embezzlement conviction in Jordan. Shiite Muslim cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al Hakim has strong support in southern Iraq, but is viewed by moderates as too close to Iran.
Since Saddam tortured and killed many of his potential rivals, there are few strong political leaders left.
Bremer said the coalition of seven leaders was not "representative of the Iraqi people" and said other political forces vying for power should be included.
The news was greeted with a mixture of regret and resignation by coalition partners who as recently as this week had been pushing to hold a national convention in early June.
Americans and Iraqis are drafting separate plans for a national congress of about 350 leaders from around the nation that would meet to select an interim government. But the two sides are at odds over who will choose the participants and how that will be done.
"This is disappointing because without a government, the situation will not improve," said Adil Abdu Almahdi, an adviser with the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. "This is the most representative group in the country and there is no other process."
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