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US Plan to Transfer Iraqi Sovereignty Losing Support - 2004-02-17


Several members of Iraq's Governing Council say they no longer support a U.S. plan to choose an interim government through regional caucuses (meetings).

The members -- representing Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds -- say the caucus system is now too controversial after its rejection by the country's most influential Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Some council members say the U.S. led coalition should hand over sovereignty to the current Governing Council until direct elections can be held. Others suggest holding a national conference of political and religious figures from which new leadership would emerge.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States is keeping an "open mind" on how an interim government is selected in Iraq.

In other political developments, Iraqi Shi'ite groups are criticizing comments by U.S. administrator Paul Bremer who they say would oppose an Iraqi constitution based on Islamic law.

A coalition spokesman (Dan Senor) says that is not Mr. Bremer's position, but the stance of the Governing Council itself that the constitution ensures protection of freedom of religion for all Iraqis.

Separately, the U.S. military issued a list of wanted members of Iraqi terror cells and members of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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