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UN Experts in Iraq to Study Early Elections - 2004-02-08


A United Nations team of political experts is in Baghdad to examine if elections can be held before coalition forces hand over power to Iraqis on June 30th.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says he hopes the team, which arrived Saturday, can help resolve the impasse over how to form the transition government.

He says the experts will meet with Iraqi and U.S. officials and try to study all Iraqi views. Leaders of Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim majority are demanding elections ahead of the handover.

Coalition officials say they will provide the U.N. team, which is operating independently, with logistical and security support.

Mr. Annan has suggested that the June 30th deadline for the handover could be postponed. U.S. officials have said they want to hear what the U.N. experts have to say before considering any major changes in their plans for handing over sovereignty in Iraq.

In violence Saturday, several Iraqi soldiers were wounded in Fallujah when insurgents fired on their vehicles.

Also a U.S. helicopter patrol killed one Iraqi man suspected of firing a rocket at troops in the town of Balad, north of Baghdad.

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