posted April 15, 2003 at 6:54 p.m. MDT
Talks on new regime exclude UN and are boycotted by Shia group - "American officials said yesterday they believed a new Iraqi government could be formed within weeks but warned that the UN would not play a significant role."
US officials are to hold talks today with around 75 Iraqis near the southern city of Nassiriya, the first in a series of meetings to decide the shape of the Iraqi interim authority. ... Today's meeting represented "the start of a national dialogue among Iraqis about the future of their country", one US government official said. "We would like to set up an interim authority as quickly as possible. We are talking about weeks, not a lot longer than that."
US and British officials have acknowledged that some Iraqis may not take part in the meeting because of disputes with others who have been invited. Officials said simply holding the meeting would be a mark of success in itself.
Iraq's main Shia Muslim opposition group said yesterday it would boycott the gathering because it would not benefit Iraqi people. A spokesman for the Iranian-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq said: "From the beginning, independence has been our manifesto. We don't accept a US umbrella or anybody else's. The Iraq nation refuses any dependency."
Despite intense pressure from Britain and other security council members, France and Russia, it is increasingly clear that the UN will not play a major role in the political process. "We do think there is a UN role here; it is just that they won't be managing partners," the senior US official said. No UN officials were invited to today's meeting."