Iraqi 'PM to be' demands leading role for UN

3rd May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 1 (AFP) - The man seen as most likely to lead Iraq's interim government when it takes over from the US-led occupation on June 30 said Saturday the United Nations should play a leading role in the power transfer.

PARIS, May 1 (AFP) - The man seen as most likely to lead Iraq's interim government when it takes over from the US-led occupation on June 30 said Saturday the United Nations should play a leading role in the power transfer.

Mehdi al-Hafez, a secular Shiite Muslim who is currently planning minister, also said in an interview with AFP he opposed the formation of an Iraqi government based on sectarian or ethnic quotas, like the current US-installed provisional Governing Council.

"We want the UN to be a real partner, and even to play a leading role", he told AFP in Paris after meetings in Washington with top US officials.

One year after US President George W. Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq over, the US plans for the handover have been clouded by a fierce upsurge in anti-occupation violence in the country.

Hafez has won support to become interim prime minister from UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and nearly all of Iraq's fractious ethnic, political and religious factions, and UN and US officials were said Friday to be nearing consensus on his nomination.

The minister said he disapproved of way US administrators had tried to match Iraq's Governing Council to the ratio of the country's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish populations.

"It was a mistake, and there is a common agreement about this," he said. "I am not for a government made with quotas (based) on sectarian or ethnic (lines), as it is now."

He said the United States was ready to see the United Nations take on a "more active role in the process of the transfer of sovereignty".

"There is a change in American politics toward the UN," he said.US authorities have turned over almost the entire transition process for Iraq to Brahimi, who is drafting plans for the future government.

Hafez, say US officials, is at the top of a list of about eight candidates Brahimi has prepared for the post, which will come with the daunting responsibility of unifying a war-torn country wracked by violence.

He said that after June 30 the "violence should decrease," and criticised actions of US-led forces to crack down on insurgents in Iraq, particular in the Sunni Muslim bastion of Fallujah which was under siege.

"Collective punishment is a mistake. It is matter of concern for us. Law and order must be restored, we must avoid (such situations as Fallujah).

Should he be appointed, Hafez will be in charge of an interim caretaker government tasked with drafting a new constitution and preparing for elections early next year in which Iraqis will choose new leaders.

Asked about being tapped for the top Iraqi post, he replied: "I will decide the day this proposal would be made."

Hafez also called for France, one of the leading opponents of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq to have a more active role in the political process there.


© AFP

                                                Subject: French news

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