Tuesday, February 24, 2004

By 2004

The UN has suggested that elections could be held in Iraq by the end of 2004:

Iraq could hold its first free national elections in decades by the end of the year if work begins right away on a legal blueprint for holding the ballot, U.N. officials told Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a report released yesterday.

The timing and structure of the elections are seen as critical to the long-term legitimacy of the new Iraqi authority and to Bush administration hopes for a smooth transfer of power to a viable, democratic Iraq.

Mr. Annan said that with such a blueprint and proper security in place, elections could take place six months after the United States hands power back to the Iraqi people on June 30.

A fact-finding U.N. team sent by Mr. Annan to Iraq earlier this month was told that political agreement on the legal framework may be secured by May.

"In that case and provided that other conditions are met, elections could be held by the end of 2004 or shortly thereafter," the report said.

However, after more than 30 years of dictatorship, a ruined economy, a devastated infrastructure and the collapse of state institutions, conditions in the country "are daunting," the report cautioned.

It warned that the challenges of working out a legitimate political process that would lead to a democratically elected government "are enormous."


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