Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Direct elections?

Is the US open to direct elections in Iraq before June 30?

The US-led coalition in Iraq is on the verge of bowing to Shiite Muslim pressure for direct elections before the handover of power on June 30, according to British officials.

The officials told The Guardian that the Blair Government had been swayed by Shiite arguments and the US was also shifting ground.

They said they believed that Paul Bremer, the US head of the Coalition Provisional Authority running Iraq, had been persuaded of the need for direct elections, provided it could be shown that they were practicable.

"Iraq could become a reasonably functioning democracy, or else it will eventually fall apart," one British official said.

"Jack (Straw, the British Foreign Secretary) has been telling Colin Powell (the US Secretary of State) that the process is a bit like riding a bike. You've got to keep it moving, even if it wobbles all over the place."

In Washington, President George Bush met a delegation from the Iraqi Governing Council on Tuesday, amid growing signs that the United Nations would soon agree to send a delegation to Iraq to help decide whether elections were possible before June 30.


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