| US commerce secretary Don Evans with a new Iraqi banknote in Baghdad. (Reuters)
Putrajaya (Malaysia), Oct. 15 (Reuters): The president of Iraq’s US-backed provisional governing council today said elections would take place next year, and said setting a timetable for US-led troops to withdraw was an issue for Iraqis alone.
Iyad Allawi, the new head of the council under its rotating leadership, when asked by reporters for a date when elections would take place, answered: “Definitely 2004”.
Allawi had just ended a news conference on the eve of a Muslim summit in Malaysia.
Minutes earlier Allawi told the conference that occupying forces were needed in Iraq to ensure peace and stability and protect the country’s borders.
He said those forces should be given a UN mandate, and be put under the command of the US, as Washington has demanded. Allawi said the current US-led coalition should be the leading force in any peacekeeping mission. He also reiterated the council’s opposition to troops from neighbouring countries.
Turkey’s offer to deploy 10,000 troops to take some of the burden off the US has raised alarm in Iraq, though council members in its OIC delegation said a compromise could be reached. “We have made our point and we may reach a solution with the coalition forces,” said Mohsen Abdul Hamid, an Iraqi delegate.
Asked whether the foreign ministers from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference had discussed drawing up a timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops, Allawi politely answered that other Muslim governments could not set the agenda. “We welcome suggestions from brothers and other countries but the question of setting timetables is an Iraqi issue in the first place,” he said.
The Iraqi delegation is likely to ask Muslim leaders to delay endorsing a resolution on Iraq when their two-day summit opens tomorrow.