| A fighter loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher during clashes with US troops in Kufa, near Najaf. (AFP)
Baghdad, June 2 (Reuters): The UN envoy in Baghdad urged Iraqis today to press on with setting up a broad parliamentary-style body to help oversee the new interim government that is charged with organising elections.
Lakhdar Brahimi, who played a mediating role in setting up the government announced yesterday to take over from the US occupation authority, said a group of about 60 leading Iraqis would criss-cross the country this month to organise a planned national conference in July that would select the new chamber.
“It’s more than a consultative body but it’s less than a legislative body,” he said as he laid out the next step on the path to Iraq’s first free elections in January under a transition process agreed with the US.
“It is only an elected government that can legitimately claim to represent the people of Iraq,” he said, as controversy rumbled on among Iraqis about the choice of interim ministers.
Improving security would be a priority, he said, as yet another bomb exploded on a busy Baghdad street, killing at least four people and wounding 20.
Kidnappings of foreigners also remains a threat.
A Pole was snatched and an armed group released a video today threatening to kill an Egyptian and a Turk if their governments did not condemn the continuing US military occupation of Iraq.
The new oversight body, to number perhaps about 80 members drawn from about 1,000 who would attend the national conference in July, would have the power to overrule the government on a two-thirds vote and to name ministers if any posts fall vacant, a UN official said, referring to a plan already made public.
The transition process is set out in a draft UN resolution proposed by the US and Britain. Iraqis and some Council members, including France, have criticised the draft as placing too much restriction on the sovereignty the interim government will gain from Washington on June 30.
A second draft submitted yesterday would give it control of its police, border patrols and other security forces and limit the stay of a US-led multinational force. Though careful not to stipulate a date to end the mandate of the force it does say clearly it would expire after Iraq drafts a new constitution and elects a government, scheduled late in 2005 or early 2006.
US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said he felt the new draft would answer the objections raised. Further talks are not expected until tomorrow, when Iraqi foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari will be present.
Contradicting US officials who insisted Washington did not exert pressure to prevent him becoming head of state, new President Ghazi Yawar told a newspaper he had been offered a string of other jobs by US officials in a bid to get him to stand aside in favour of elder statesman Adnan Pachachi.
“There was pressure and offers of other positions in return for my stepping down,” said Yawar.