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Annan: Iraq Can’t Vote Before June 30

February 19, 2004

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-General Kofi Annan backed the U.S. position Thursday and recommended against holding elections in Iraq before the June 30 transfer of power to Iraqis.

He made no recommendation on how to form a transitional government.

Annan said, however, the June 30 date for the U.S.-led coalition to restore sovereignty to Iraq must be respected.

Earlier Thursday, L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, said changes are possible in the formula for establishing a new Iraqi government, but the June 30 date for the U.S.-led coalition to hand over power remained firm.

Annan and his special adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke to reporters after a 90-minute meeting with representatives of 45 nations and the European Union where Brahimi gave a briefing on hisweeklongg visit to Iraq.

``We shared with them our sense, and the emerging consensus, or understanding that elections cannot be held before the end of June, that the June 30 date for the hand-over of sovereignty must be respected, and that we need to find a mechanism to create a caretaker government and then prepare the elections later, sometime later in the future,″ Annan said.

The coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council asked the United Nations to send a team to Iraq to help resolve a disagreement between the U.S. administration and a powerful Shiite spiritual leader on transferring power to Iraqis by the end of June.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani has called for direct elections, arguing that a government based on caucuses would be ``illegitimate.″ The United States has argued that security concerns and lack of preparations make quick elections impossible.

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