- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The Iraqi Governing Council will appeal for an early turnover of full sovereignty when it meets with President Bush at the United Nations next week.

The IGC, emboldened as it increasingly gains acceptance in the Arab world, is sending a delegation led by its president, Ahmed Chalabi, to New York to attend the opening of the U.N. General Assembly next week.

“My understanding is that this delegation is going to shoot for sovereignty,” said Entifad Qanbar, a senior member of Mr. Chalabi’s political group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

“Mr. Chalabi is going to meet with Mr. Bush and talk to him about it,” said Mr. Qanbar in a telephone call from Baghdad.

He said the group would ask the Americans to recognize the council as a provisional government and hand over power before the end of the year. “And we are going to welcome and push countries who are leaning toward the issue of sovereignty, such as France, Russia and Germany,” he said.

Despite complaints that its members were handpicked by the United States, the IGC steadily has been gaining recognition in the Arab world. It has won back Iraq’s seat at the Arab League and been authorized to represent Baghdad at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“The fact that they are seated at the Arab League and OPEC counters any criticisms from the Arab street about their legitimacy,” said David Phillips, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

At the United Nations, the IGC delegation is to sit behind Iraq’s plaque in a de facto recognition of the council’s authority — barring any challenges. The United Nations’ credentials committee is to vote formally in November on recognition of the council.

A senior State Department official said yesterday that the IGC had put in a request to address the General Assembly and had been scheduled to speak at the tail end of the session. An INC source said the date was being discussed.

The IGC delegation is expected to meet with Mr. Bush on Tuesday and with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the group is to meet congressional leaders in Washington at the invitation of the bipartisan leadership of the committees that have authorizing responsibility over Iraq, the INC source said.

Mr. Qanbar said the IGC was keen on winning sovereignty as soon as possible.

“This is something that has to happen within a few months, this year definitely,” he said.

France has called on the United States to produce a definitive timeline for handing power to the Iraqis.

But a senior State Department official said yesterday that while the U.S. vision was to help the IGC create a timetable toward elections, “we don’t want to short-circuit” the process toward democracy by rushing it.

The official said L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, would remain the sole authority there until a self-governing Iraqi administration was in place.

Washington, which has been trying to garner more political and military support worldwide for the reconstruction effort in postwar Iraq, has offered a new U.N. resolution calling for strengthening the world body’s role in the country, drafting a new Iraqi constitution and moving toward general elections.

“I have read the current draft resolution,” Mr. Qanbar said. “It talks about sovereignty, it has beautiful language, but is very vague in terms of a timeline.”

“They are not yet at a position where the Americans are ready to talk about transition,” he added.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that Washington was listening carefully to suggestions from other countries. “Any that are constructive will be incorporated into our thinking as we try to move forward,” he said.

Accompanying Mr. Chalabi to New York will be interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Adnan Pachachi and Akila Al-Hashemi.

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