A top U.N. official says elections for a permanent Iraqi government need to be held as early as possible -- but not before the country is able to carry out the complicated electoral process.
U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says there is consensus among Iraqis that their government must be formed by elections. But, at a news conference Friday in Baghdad, he would not specify a date for such a vote.
Mr. Brahimi says he will make a recommendation to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the matter in the next few days. Mr. Annan will then issue his recommendation for when elections in Iraq can be held.
Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who met with the U.N. envoy Thursday in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, has called for elections before the transfer of power on June 30th. U.S. officials have said that is not possible.
Mr. Brahimi and his team of experts have been meeting this week with groups in Iraq to find a compromise solution.
In separate development, U.S. military officials say an explosive device killed one American soldier and wounded two others late Thursday while they were on patrol in Baghdad.