- BAGHDAD -- As the violence
continued in Iraq yesterday, the head of the American occupation administration
admitted the US was waiting for the United Nations to find a way out of
the impasse on handing over power to Iraqis. Speaking on two American talk
shows, Paul Bremer admitted the US was now pinning its hopes on the UN,
an organisation it had written off as irrelevant at the time of the invasion
of Iraq. Rejected by the Americans and forced to flee Iraq last year after
two bombings, the UN is suddenly back in the frame in Iraq.
- US hopes of getting at least partly out of the quagmire
that Iraq has become and handing power to an Iraqi interim administration
by President Bush's deadline of 30 June are looking more troubled than
ever after Saturday's attack in Fallujah, in which insurgents stormed an
Iraqi police station, killing at least 21, and an Iraqi army garrison.
- The US administration is desperate to get its troops
out of harm's way before Mr Bush faces re-election in November.
- American plans to hand over political power to an interim
Iraqi government also look to be in as much trouble. Mr Bremer said yesterday
in interviews on ABC's This Week and CNN's Late Editions that the US may
be about to ditch its plan to choose an interim Iraqi government with regional
caucuses. Diplomats have already said the plan is dead in the water after
it was rejected by the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shia majority, Ayatollah
Ali al-Sistani. Ayatollah Sistani is demanding direct elections, which
the US claims there is not time to organise by June.
- Mr Bremer insisted that Mr Bush's deadline to hand over
power still stood, though he could not say how an interim government would
be chosen. He said the Americans were waiting for the recommendations of
an UN mission recently sent to find a way out of the impasse, under Lakhdar
Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat. Mr Bremer said: "We're waiting
to see what he [Mr Brahimi] says when he issues his report, hopefully in
the next week or 10 days." He said the eventual solution "may
be different from the caucus plan".
- Mr Brahimi said, after meeting Ayatollah Sistani, that
he backed his demands for direct elections in principle, but his spokesman
has said the UN mission accepts that direct elections are not possible
before 30 June. Mr Bremer said yesterday that the US would accept bringing
elections forward to the end of this year or January 2005 but there would
be some form of handover by June.
- The attack in Fallujah has underlined how difficult it
will be for the US to disengage from Iraq. The moment American troops are
pulled back, as they were in Fallujah, the new Iraqi authorities set up
by the US are likely to come under attack from insurgents - attacks they
seem ill-equipped to withstand. It seems unlikely an Iraqi government that
was not directly elected could survive long without US military protection.
- American uncertainty over who is behind the attacks surfaced
yesterday when Mr Bremer said foreign militants were involved, as Iraqi
police claimed. But American officials in Baghdad claimed foreign involvement
was unlikely, and that the attacks looked more like the work of former
members of Saddam Hussein's army.
- *Iraqi police have captured Muhammad Zimam Abd al-Razzaq
al-Sadun, a senior member of Saddam's toppled Baath Party and number 41
on Washington's "most wanted" list. Iraq's Deputy Interior Minister,
Ahmed Kadhim, said: "What is special about this operation is that
the Iraqi police alone conducted it. It ... should be a source of joy for
Iraqis because they now have police they can depend on."
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd