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Bush, Bremer to Discuss Iraq - 2004-01-16


The top U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, holds talks with President Bush and his advisers in Washington today (Friday) to discuss plans to return sovereignty to Iraq.

The talks come after tens of thousands of Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims demonstrated in the southern city of Basra (Thursday), demanding direct nationwide elections to choose a government before the end of June, when power is to be transferred to Iraqis.

Protesters chanted "No to America," and waved pictures of Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric -- Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has objected to the coalition's plan to delay elections.

The plan calls for caucuses (meetings of voters) across the country to pick a transitional assembly, which in turn would appoint an interim government before power is transferred, with elections to follow next year.

U.S. officials say security concerns and the lack of voter registration lists make it impossible to hold direct elections by June.

Mr. Bremer is expected to review the plan, and Iraqi concerns, with President Bush today.

On Monday, Mr. Bremer and the current president of the U.S. - appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi, will meet with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York, as the United Nations considers what role it should play in Iraq.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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