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Kofi Annan Meets Iraqi, US Officials - 2004-01-19


UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is meeting (at this hour) with the U.S. administrator for Iraq and members of the Iraqi Governing Council to discuss the world body's role in post-war Iraq.

Mr. Annan called for the meeting last month. The United States wants UN staff to return to Iraq as the U.S. led coalition prepares to hand over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on June 30th.

U.S. civilian administrator Paul Bremer says the United States is willing to modify or refine its plan for the transfer of power, but he says early direct elections are not an option.

The U.S. plan calls for an interim government to be chosen in a process involving regional caucuses, or meetings. But Iraq's most influential Shi'ite leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is calling instead for direct elections.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully in Baghdad today in support of Ayatollah Sistani's position.

Mr. Annan pulled foreign UN staff from Iraq last year after deadly attacks on UN facilities. The United Nations says it remains concerned about the security situation in Iraq.

A suicide bombing just outside the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters on Sunday killed at least 25 people, and wounded scores of others.

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

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