Iraq's U.S.-appointed governing council is on a collision course with the United States over the development of a new constitution, a key step in the return to Iraqi sovereignty and the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The United States is considering abandoning the council and creating a provisional government to rule until a new constitution is written and elections are held, the Washington Post reports. This plan, similar to what the United States implemented in Afghanistan, is backed by other U.N. Security Council members, the Post reports.
A senior U.S. official in Baghdad says the Iraqi Council is "inept" at reaching its own people and has done "nothing of substance" since it was appointed in August, the Post reports.
In the face of mounting U.S. pressure to move faster, a senior Iraqi official said today the deteriorating security situation may slow things down.
Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, told reporters that the U.S.-appointed Iraqi administration would submit a timetable to the U.N. Security Council for drafting a constitution and organizing national elections. The deadline was set by the Security Council in a resolution unanimously adopted last month.
"However, those timetables depend on the security situation, and if the security deteriorates, we will not be able to adhere to such commitments," Zebari said at a press conference with the Spanish foreign minister, Ana Palacio.
In other developments:
A new constitution would enable Iraqis to govern themselves and would hasten the day when American and other coalition forces could leave the country in the hands of a stable and democratically elected administration.
A major stumbling block for organizing a constitutional convention has been the question of choosing delegates. Key Shiite Muslim clerics want the delegates to be chosen in a national election. Shiites comprise at least 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people.
U.S. officials believe such an election would delay the selection. Other Iraqis prefer to see the delegates chosen by other methods, including having the Governing Council pick them from a list submitted by local and provincial leaders.
The coalition's chief administrator L. Paul Bremer said the Governing Council had to make progress on the constitutional issue.
"They are required by the terms of Resolution 1511 in the Security Council to provide a timeline and a process for how they're going to write a constitution, and they have to do that within the next month," he said.
"I've been meeting pretty much daily with members of the Governing Council and the council itself to find a way forward and I'm confident we'll find a way forward," Bremer said.
The security situation in Iraqi began deteriorating last month with an increase in American casualties after weeks of steady decline. Nearly half of all hostile deaths among American forces in Iraq since the end of major combat have taken place in the past five weeks.
On Saturday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the U.S. administration had been "sobered" by the escalation of violence but maintained that "we have a very solid plan to go out and get these people who are killing us and killing Iraqis."
"I'm pretty convinced ... that we will take this fight to the enemy," Armitage said after meeting with U.S. military and civilian authorities here.