- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

TEHRAN, Iran, March 4 (UPI) — Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi Tuesday proposed a new settlement for the Iraqi crisis that would help avoid a looming U.S. war on Baghdad.

Kharrazi, who disclosed the proposal in a speech at the 13th Persian Gulf Conference in Tehran, called for "holding a referendum in Iraq and achieving national reconciliation between the government and opponents under the supervision of the United Nations.

"We believe that referendum is the only peaceful solution that could be accepted by the Iraqi government and which could spare the region a war," he was quoted as saying by the official Iranian News Agency, or IRNA.

Referring to U.S. plans for post-war Iraq, Kharrazi said: "We believe that any settlement from outside Iraq could not appoint a future government for this country."

He hoped that the Iraqi officials study the Iranian proposal and emphasized that Tehran "does not want to determine the fate of the Iraqi people and does not approve the entry of U.S. forces into the Iraqi territories."

He welcomed Turkish parliament's rejection of allowing U.S. forces to deploy in Turkey as a prelude to attack Iraq.

The United Arab Emirates proposed over the weekend that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein steps down to avoid U.S. looming war. The UAE initiative was ignored by the Arab summit meeting in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort on Saturday, but was approved by the Gulf countries as an offer worth discussion.

It was not known whether the Muslim leaders who prepare to attend Organization of Islamic Conference's summit in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, would be willing to discuss the UAE initiative.

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