Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Iraq will not accept any government that is directed by the United Nations, a spokesman for Ahmed Chalabi, a senior member of the Iraqi Governing Council, said yesterday.

“Iraqis have fought and died for this day, and it is not acceptable that we replace [U.S.] occupation with U.N. supervision,” spokesman Entifadh Qanbar told reporters at the National Press Club.

“They are not ready to receive cooked deals behind closed doors, or even semicooked deals,” he said.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy to Iraq who was called in by Washington and the Iraqi Governing Council to help organize a caretaker government to take power June 30, has suggested dissolving the Governing Council and setting up a technocratic leadership.

“Either Brahimi does what the Iraqi people want or he will fail,” said Mr. Qanbar, who is also a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, a party lead by Mr. Chalabi.

Mr. Chalabi was closely linked to the Pentagon during his years spent fighting Saddam Hussein from exile and during the early months of the U.S.-led campaign.

He also has been a leading critic of the United Nations for its failure to act against Saddam, as well as its administration of an oil-for-food program, from which an estimated $10 billion disappeared during the 1990s.

Mr. Qanbar said a national conference or ballot should be held before June 30 to select the transitional government, which is to remain in power until elections scheduled for January.

He insisted that Mr. Chalabi, who would be sidelined from the new government along with the other 24 members of the Governing Council under the U.N. plan, would continue to play a key role in the country.

The U.N. plan “seems to me almost like a coup, something the Iraqi people will not accept,” Mr. Qanbar said.

“Brahimi cannot exclude people or appoint people. It is impossible to exclude not only Chalabi, but those who participated in the liberation of Iraq,” he said. “We will have Iraqis choose their own government. That’s the only way to go, and that’s what’s going to happen.”

With the deadline to a power transfer looming and violence lacerating normal life in Iraq, Mr. Qanbar said, the bloody insurgency in Fallujah had to be crushed for peace to return to the country.

“We want to limit the bloodshed, but we must not retreat,” he said. “I don’t think any negotiation with terrorists will persuade them to lay down their weapons. They are die-hard soldiers elements of [Saddam’s] Republican Guard.

Mr. Qanbar he took a different tack when it came to the rebel Shi’ite cleric holed up in the holy city of Najaf, Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr. The cleric has threatened massive suicide attacks if the U.S. carries out its threat to arrest or kill him.

“This should be handled by Iraqi forces, police” he said, warning of a catastrophe if American troops enter the city to capture Sheik al-Sadr.

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