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Washington to Call for U.N. Help in Iraq

Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, will ask the United Nations on Monday for help in transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people. But the U.N. is reluctant as continuing unrest heightens security concerns.

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Paul Bremer will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York.

Bremer is hoping United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will agree to aid Washington in transferring power to an interim Iraqi government within the next half year. However, a devastating car bomb attack in Baghdad which killed at least 20 people on Sunday underscored how dangerous operating in Iraq remains.

The latest round of violence threatens to derail the timetable set out by the United States and the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council for the return of power and to further destabilize Iraq. It could also deter greater involvement by the United Nations, which had its Iraq headquarters destroyed by a massive bomb last summer.

“Whether to go back or not is primarily a security assessment, taken in connection with an assessment of the significance of the role we are being asked to play,” U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Friday, according to the Reuters news agency.

Annan calls meeting

Bremer, currently in the United States for meetings with the White House officials, will meet with Annan in New York at the Secretary General’s request and is expected to press for U.N. help in persuading leaders of Iraq's Shi’ite majority to accept a handover of power.

Also present at the meeting will be Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British administrator to Iraq, and a delegation from the Iraqi Governing Council, led by its current president Adnan Pachachi.

protestaktion Schiitenführer Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani Irak Basra

Iraqis carrying posters of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani.

Washington wants a United Nations team to be sent to Iraq in an attempt to convince Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a leading Shi’ite cleric that his call for direct general elections is not feasible in the present climate, diplomats told Reuters.

Powerful cleric threatens deal

Sistani objects to a deal between the occupation authorities and the Governing Council on November 15 that calls for a transitional assembly, selected by caucuses in May. The assembly would then elect the provisional government by June 30.

Although the meeting itself has been called by Annan -- to get some "clarity" on any future U.N. political role in Iraq -- the United Nations is reluctant to re-engage in the unstable situation in Iraq while certain security conditions remain unsatisfactory to the world body.

Sunday’s blast which killed at least 20 people, including two U.S. defense contractors, and injured many more will do little to convince the UN of a climate safe enough for its return.

U.N. still leery

Anschlag auf US-Hauptquartier in Bagdad

The bomb on Sunday killed at least 20.

The United Nations has been absent from Iraq since a massive car bomb attack on its offices in Baghdad last August killed 22 people, including the head of the U.N. mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The UN pulled out its international staff from Iraq in October and since then Annan has reiterated on several occasions that safety conditions in Iraq continue to be too dangerous for them to return.

Although not ruling out the possibility of a team to assist in the election negotiations, the United Nations has issued a long list of safety and political reasons why rescuing a U.S.-initiated plan for the hand over of power is fraught with difficulties. Apart from security concerns, the United Nations is also reluctant to intervene in, and be seen as approving, a process that it had no role in formulating.

After the meeting on Monday, the 15-member U.N. Security Council will hear a progress report from Pachachi in a closed session later that day. Although most council members have said that they will stand behind any decision Kofi Annan makes on the future of the U.N. in Iraq, the majority are considered to be in favor of a return to the country.

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