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Transitional Iraqi govt to take over in June

November 16, 2003

BAGHDAD, Nov 15: Iraq’s Interim Governing Council announced on Saturday a transitional government would take over by the end of June next year from the US-led administration, in a far swifter restoration of Iraqi sovereignty than first envisaged.

The council (IGC) also said a constitution would be written and elections held by the end of 2005, but that a sovereign transitional government would be in place well before then.

“I am very happy and proud. The dream of the Iraqi people has been achieved today,” Jalal Talabani, the IGC’s current chairman, told reporters.

Facing a mounting death toll and increasingly audacious guerrilla attacks, Washington has been pushing for a faster transfer of power to Iraqis. It has abandoned its insistence that a sovereign Iraqi government take over only after a constitution is completed and elections held.

In Washington, US President George Bush issued a statement welcoming plans for a transitional government by June and said it was an important step for Iraq.

On Friday, Mr Bush insisted the United States would stay in Iraq until it is “free and peaceful”.

According to the proposals unveiled on Saturday, a transitional assembly will be selected by May next year by caucuses in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces. That assembly will pick the transitional government from amongst its ranks by the end of June, Mr Talabani said in a prepared statement.

“At its assumption of power, the state of occupation would end,” he told a news conference after the council met Paul Bremer, who was called to Washington earlier this week for urgent consultations.

While Iraq will no longer legally be in a state of occupation, Washington fully expects any new government to request a sizable US-led force to remain in the country.

“The presence of the forces of the United States and other countries will be discussed by the transitional government,” said Mr Talabani. “If we need them to stay, we will ask them to stay. If we don’t, we will respectfully ask them to leave.”—Reuters