Iraq would-be leaders in talks with US representatives
Hundreds of Iraq's aspiring political leaders prepared for a key meeting in Baghdad on the country's future.
The talks between the would-be leaders and the retired US general currently running Iraq come amid mounting fury amongst ordinary Iraqis over the absence of basic services in the country and uncertainty over the shape of its future government.
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Sunday arrived in the Gulf on a week-long tour of the region which was expected to include Iraq, while US officials vowed they were making every effort to restore power and water to Baghdad.
Between 300 and 400 Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum were expected in Baghdad on Monday to meet with Jay Garner, the retired US general running postwar Iraq.
Barbara Bodine, the US administrator for central Iraq, said that the meeting was a chance to look for "emerging personalities" who could lead the Iraqi people in the future.
"It's not a political meeting," Bodine said, adding there would be more "indigenous" representation at Monday's meeting than at the gathering two weeks ago, which largely brought together longtime Iraqi exiles.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy coordinating with Iraqi opposition leaders, will also attend.
The two main Kurdish factions which have controlled most of northern Iraq since the aftermath of the last Gulf war in 1991, have said they will be present.
Massoud Barzani from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is sending delegates in his place but it was not known if Jalal Talabani from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PDK) would do the same.
The meeting follows a similar gathering of leaders on April 15, but a date has still not been set for Garner's administration to hand over power to an Iraqi government.
An Iran-based Iraqi Shiite group, SAIRI, said it was highly probable it would take part in Monday's meeting after boycotting the April 15 gathering.
The US officials running postwar Iraq also said that a team of Iraqi experts, many from the former regime, would be in place in the next few days to run the capital city. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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