U.N. Envoy: Give Gov't A Chance

Lakhdar Brahimi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan 's special adviser on Iraq, gestures during a news conference in Baghdad Friday Feb. 13, 2004. Brahimi is here to consult different sectors of the Iraqi populace as he tries to work out differences over U.S. plans to transfer power to Iraqis this summer.
AP
The United Nations envoy urged Iraqis on Wednesday to accept the new interim government and to work toward national elections — the next major step in the country's advance toward democracy.

Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, spoke a day after announcing a government that will take power from the U.S.-run occupation on June 30. The new leadership will run the country until national elections, set for no later than Jan. 31.

"Will every Iraqi be satisfied of the present government? Definitely not," Brahimi said. "I believe many Iraqis, if not all, will find in this government those whom I don't say represent them but are close to them."

"I believe the election is the most important (next) step," Brahimi told reporters. "Preparing for it and creating the necessary atmosphere for it are imperative for its success."

The new government was announced after Iraqis pushed through the head of the Governing Council, Ghazi al-Yawer, as president after U.S. favorite Adnan Pachachi stepped aside.

British-educated Shiite politician Iyad Allawi, a longtime opposition figure known for his close ties to the State Department and the CIA, was named prime minister on Friday.

Appearing on Wednesday's CBS News Early Show, national security adviser Condoleeza Rice denied that the United States backed a candidate "for president or for any other position."

"We told Mr. Brahimi that all of the candidates that he was considering — his short list, so to speak — were acceptable to the United States," Rice said. "And this is a very, very good government."

"Most importantly, it's a government that can now move forward on the next step to the full sovereignty, return of sovereignty to the Iraqis and to elections sometime at the end of the year or next year," she said.

Now the U.S. turns to its next diplomatic challenge, reports CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk: a new U.N. resolution governing the handover of power.

At the Security Council on Tuesday, the United States and Britain circulated a revised resolution that would give the interim government control over the Iraqi army and police and end the mandate for the multinational force by January 2006 at the latest.

Critics — namely France, Russia and Germany — had said the previous U.S.-British resolution did not go far enough in granting Iraqis genuine power over their own national affairs. Iraq's new foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, was traveling to New York to join the debate.

"The development should make us optimistic," Karsten Voigt, the German Foreign Ministry's top official for relations with Washington, said in an interview with Suedwestrundfunk radio. The revised resolution is a sign that "the Americans are moving," he said.

President Bush said Tuesday's naming of the Cabinet brought Iraq "one step closer" to democracy, but warned against a spike in violence as the date for the restoration of sovereignty draws near.

Security remains the primary threat facing the new government. The ceremony introducing the new government took place under tight security in the heavily guarded Green Zone headquarters of the U.S. occupation administration.

"Why is there — to use neutral terms — this insurgency?" Brahimi said Wednesday, suggesting that Iraq's leaders should talk with the fighters. "I think it's a little bit too easy to call everyone a terrorist."

Strong explosions rolled through the heart of the capital even as word emerged of al-Yawer's selection Tuesday. Car bombings in Baghdad and the northern town of Beiji killed 14 people and left more than 40 wounded, while U.S. troops and Shiite gunmen clashed in the capital and Kufa, in the south.

During the ceremony Tuesday, Allawi focused on security, saying he would ask Iraq's allies for help "in defeating the enemies of Iraq." He also pledged to strengthen the army and raise soldier pay. Iraq's security forces, he said, will be a "pivotal partner" with U.S. and other coalition troops in the fight to restore security.

Switching from Arabic to English for the benefit of coalition leaders in the audience, Allawi said: "We're grateful to the national alliance led by the Americans who have sacrificed so much to liberate us."

More than 800 U.S. service members have been killed since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Tuesday's announcement capped four weeks of deliberations by Brahimi, the coalition, the Governing Council and thousands of Iraqis whose advice and views he sought.

Following the appointment of the interim government, the U.S.-picked Governing Council dissolved so that the new leadership could begin work even before it takes power from the American-led coalition at the end of the month.

Among its first tasks will be to negotiate a crucial agreement on the status of U.S.-led international forces that will remain here after sovereignty is restored and to tackle the country's tenuous security situation.

It will take over day-to-day operations of government ministries immediately, although the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority remains the sovereign power in Iraq until June 30.

Mr. Bush and top U.S. officials repeatedly stress that Iraqis will have "full sovereignty" after June 30. The interim Iraqi government that takes power then, however, will be more caretaking than autonomous, unable to do basic functions such as like make laws or control military forces.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to former President Carter, says the term "full sovereignty" lacks credibility. No government can be fully sovereign while its country is "still being occupied by a foreign army, 140,000 men, subject to our authority," he said.

Brzezinski envisions a government of "limited sovereignty," the same wording used by Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman before Congress in April.

The Bush administration quickly disavowed that phrase in favor of "full sovereignty."

Nevertheless, the Iraqi administration to be installed on July 1 is more a caretaker government than an entity with broad authority to exercise its will.

As an example, U.S. forces there will remain under American control. Also, the approval of any new laws must await the early 2006 installation of an elected government contemplated under the current timetable.