Iraq occupation to end in June

BAGHDAD: Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council announced yesterday a transitional government would take over in June from the US-led powers, in a far swifter restoration of Iraqi sovereignty than first envisaged. 

The interim council, created by US administrator Paul Bremer in July, said an elected government would follow by the end of 2005 after a Constitution had been drafted and ratified. 

The council unveiled the timetable after the United States, whose troops have been harried by guerillas in Iraq, abandoned its earlier insistence that a sovereign government take over only after a Consitution had been completed and elections held. 

Jalal Talabani, the council's current chairman, said the transition would involve “the creation of a permanent Constitution by an elected council, directly elected by the people, and also the election of a new government according to the articles of this new Constitution before the end of 2005”. 

In the meantime, a transitional council will be selected by May, which will pick the transitional government by the end of June, Talabani said in a prepared statement. 

“At its assumption of power, the state of occupation would end,” he told reporters. 

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

“This is a matter that will be discussed later on – the status of the troops here, the time that they will be here, their duties, this has to be worked out,” said Adnan Pachachi, one of the members of the Governing Council. 

“A lot of countries have foreign troops on their soil with the acceptance of the states concerned. It's not unusual.” 

The council statement said a law would be drafted by February formalising the political roadmap. 

The law would allow “a degree of decentralisation of administration of the governorates, with special consideration of the current situation in Kurdish areas”, it said. 

The plan was announced a day after council leaders met Bremer on his return from urgent consultations in Washington. 

In a related development, a US helicopter crashed in a civilian area in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday and American soldiers sealed off the area, witnesses said. 

There was no immediate word on casualties. – Reuters 

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