UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says he will send a team to Iraq to explore the possibility of holding elections in the next few months, if he receives adequate security assurances.
Mr. Annan made the announcement in a statement released today (Tuesday) in Paris.
The United States and the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council have asked Mr. Annan to study the election issue.
Iraq's top Shiite Muslim leader is demanding direct elections before a planned transfer of power to Iraqis from the U.S. led coalition by the end of June. His followers have staged huge marches in support of the demand.
Both the United States and the Iraqi Council say there is not enough time to organize free and fair elections before the planned restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.
The U.S. backed plan calls for handing over power to an interim Iraqi government chosen through regional caucuses. The interim administration is to run the country and organize general elections by the end of 2005.
The United Nations pulled its staff out of Iraq last year, following deadly attacks on its Baghdad offices that killed more than 20 people, including the top U-N envoy to the country.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.