- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) — In what appeared to be a compromise with the United States, the Iraqi opposition Friday formally named a political leadership committee but stopped short of declaring a provisional government to take over when President Saddam Hussein is gone from Baghdad.

Meeting for the third day at the mountain resort of Salahuddin in northern Iraq, members of a coordinating committee set up last December at an opposition conference in London set up the committee Thursday. Friday they formally announced it.

U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was on hand for the announcement.

Khalilzad is viewed by some Iraqi observers as at least partially responsible for repeated postponements of the committee meeting that finally began Wednesday. Khalilzad put off attending, these observers say, because he opposed the possible declaration at the meeting of a provisional government before Saddam has been toppled from power.

The creation of the leadership committee was seen as intended to counter plans in Washington to appoint a U.S. military administrator until a democratic government is established in Iraq.

Iraqis argue that a U.S. military government would be bound to rely on members of a state bureaucracy and security forces made up of members of the presently ruling Baath Party.

The Iraqis gathered in Salahuddin see the leadership committee as the only valid interlocutor for the United States in the creation of a democratic Iraq.

Khalilzad is a senior member of the National Security Council who served as the Bush administration's point man in dealing with the opposition to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the land of his birth. He and the Iraqis were closeted in intense talks Wednesday and Thursday, according to sources close to the opposition.

The committee includes figures who lead significant opposition bodies and are favored by different parts of the U.S. government.

Iraq's 3.5 million Kurds are represented by Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and Masud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The meeting is being held at KDP headquarters in Salahuddin.

Between them, the two Kurdish parties control an area that has been beyond Saddam's control since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The Shia Arabs who make up the majority of Iraq's population are represented on the leadership committee by two men. One is Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, brother of Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim who heads the Iran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Like the two Kurdish parties, SCIRI commands a militia and has carried out guerrilla attacks in areas under Saddam's rule.

The other Shia committee member is Ahmad Chalabi of the umbrella group, the Iraqi National Congress. Chalabi is regarded as having considerable support in the U.S. Department of Defense.

There are also two Sunni Arab members. One is Ayad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord that includes disaffected Baath Party officials and military and which the CIA is seen to favor.

The other Sunni Arab is Adnan Pachachi, an Arab nationalist who served as foreign minister and envoy to the United Nations during the 1960s. His admirers see Pachachi as a kind of Iraqi Konrad Adenaur, the chancellor who presided over the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany in the wake of World War II. Pachachi is reportedly favored by the State Department to head a transitional government in post-Saddam Iraq.

The leadership committee may be later enlarged to nine members with one each for the Christian Iraqis, the Turkomans, and possibly an independent.

Not all Iraqi opposition groups attended the Salahuddin meeting. Among those absent was the Constitutional Monarchy Movement, headed by Sharif Ali bin Hussein.

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