Official: Up to nine Iraqis will likely lead interim government

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 5, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A council of up to nine Iraqis will probably lead the country's still unformed interim government through the coming months, the American civil administrator said today.

Retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner also said he expects the newly appointed L. Paul Bremer, former head of the State Department's counterterrorism office, to take charge of the political process within the U.S. postwar administration.

''What you may see is as many as seven, eight, nine leaders working together to provide leadership,'' Garner said. He added, though, that he didn't know how the collective leadership would function specifically.

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The Iraqi leaders Garner referred to were Massoud Barzani; leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress; Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord; and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose elder brother heads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The five met several times late last week, and at least one meeting was attended by White House envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Garner said the group would probably be expanded to include, for example, a Christian and perhaps another Sunni leader.

Bremer is expected to arrive in Iraq by next week, Garner said.

''He will get more involved in the political process. I'm doing all of it and don't want to do all of it,'' Garner said.

He said the appointment of someone such as Bremer had been planned all along.

''I'll stay a while. There's got to be a good handoff,'' he said.

Garner spoke as he prepared to leave for a one-day trip to Basra, where he will be visiting a school, a hospital and an oil refinery and will be conferring with a local sheik.