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Iraq interim govt by June 2004

Baghdad, Nov. 15 (Reuters): Iraq’s US-appointed governing council announced today a transitional government would take over in June from the US-led powers, in a far swifter restoration of Iraqi sovereignty than first envisaged.

The interim council, created by US administrator Paul Bremer in July, said an elected government would follow by the end of 2005 after a constitution had been drafted and ratified.

The council unveiled the timetable after the US, whose troops have been harried by guerrillas in Iraq, abandoned its earlier insistence that a sovereign government take over only after a constitution had been completed and elections held.

Jalal Talabani, the council’s current chairman, said the transition would involve “the creation of a permanent constitution by an elected council, directly elected by the people, and also the election of a new government according to the articles of this new constitution before the end of 2005”. A transitional council will be selected by May next year, which will pick the transitional government by the end of June, Talabani said in a prepared statement.

“At its assumption of power, the state of occupation would end,” he said. While Iraq will no longer legally be in a state of occupation, Washington fully expects any new government to request a sizeable US-led force to remain in the country.

“This is a matter that will be discussed later on — the status of the troops here, the time that they will be here, their duties, this has to be worked out,” said Adnan Pachachi, one of the members of the governing council. “A lot of countries have foreign troops on their soil with the acceptance of the states concerned. It’s not unusual.” President George W. Bush insisted yesterday that the US would stay in Iraq until it is “free and peaceful”. But more than seven months after US-led invasion forces ousted Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains far from calm.

The US military said one American soldier was killed and two were wounded in Baghdad by an improvised bomb today.

Insurgents now mounting some 30 attacks a day have killed 160 US soldiers in Iraq since Bush declared major combat over on May 1. US forces have hit back with “Operation Iron Hammer” for the past three days, using air strikes to destroy buildings used by insurgents.

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