U.N. Envoy Seeks New Iraq Council by Close of MayUNITED NATIONS, April 27 — The special United Nations envoy for Iraq, offering a speeded-up timetable for the selection of a caretaker government in Baghdad, said Tuesday that the new government should be chosen a full month before sovereignty is transferred on June 30 to give it time to define its authority.
Addressing the Security Council, the envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the month would be necessary for the transitional leaders to reach "crystal-clear understandings" of their relationship to the occupation authority they would replace and to the American military commanders who are to remain in charge of Iraqi security forces.
In his first extensive public comments since outlining his plans for an interim government earlier this month, Mr. Brahimi also said the occupants of the government's top posts should insulate themselves from partisan activity by agreeing not to be candidates in national elections next year.
Although he did not say so specifically, that seemed to rule out a role in the caretaker government for prominent Iraqis now in the American-picked Iraqi Governing Council, including the heads of political parties who are expected to contest the June 2005 elections.
Last week, in an interview with ABC News, Mr. Brahimi suggested that among those he would expect not to serve are Ahmed Chalabi, a former exile leader favored by some in the Pentagon to lead Iraq.
Some Bush administration officials say that they do not reject the possibility of some political leaders, including Mr. Chalabi, serving in a caretaker government, but that they agree that it would be better for the new government to consist of non-political technocrats.
On Tuesday, Mr. Brahimi emphasized the need to curb the power of the transitional authority, saying, "It should refrain, to the maximum extent possible, from entering into long-term commitments that can and should await decision by an elected government."
Mr. Brahimi, who recently completed a mission to Iraq to help shape an interim administration, acknowledged that the continuing mayhem in Iraq would complicate the effort to establish political stability. But he said the task was "doable" and would itself contribute to a lessening of the violence.
"A viable political process is no panacea," he said, "but it is a powerful contributing factor to security."
Mr. Brahimi told members of the 15-nation panel that the plan he was recommending was largely the one he had outlined at a Baghdad news conference on April 14 at the end of 11 days of consultations with Iraqis.
Under that arrangement, the caretaker government would be led by a president, two vice presidents and a prime minister and would be advised by a consultative body to be chosen in a national conference this summer that Mr. Brahimi estimated Tuesday could number up to 1,500 people.
He did not specify how the caretaker government would be chosen, other than to emphasize that it should be Iraqis themselves who make the choice. In the past, he has said that the selections would be made by members of the Iraqi Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraqi judges and himself.
"Though it will certainly not be easy, we do believe that it shall be possible to identify by the end of May a group of people respected and acceptable to Iraqis across the country, to form this caretaker government," he said.
The interim administration he described would have limited authority, much as Bush administration officials have been suggesting in Congressional testimony in recent days. Its main purpose would be to provide a civil administration and to prepare the nation for the 2005 elections, which will mark the moment, Mr. Brahimi said, when Iraq will first have a fully representative and empowered government.
The plan Mr. Brahimi has developed replaces an early Bush administration proposal by which a new Iraqi assembly would have been chosen through caucuses around the country. In Washington Tuesday, a State Department spokesman said the Bush administration had no problems with Mr. Brahimi's proposal.
"We're in synch with Brahimi," said the spokesman, who asked not to be identified. "We're eager to get a government up and running as soon as is feasible."
Mr. Brahimi appeared to go out of his way in his presentation to cite areas of agreement with recent steps taken by the American administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III. He noted approvingly that Mr. Bremer had agreed to permit the re-enrollment of Iraqi military officers with honorable records, to ease the "de-Baathification" program to allow some professionals who were party members to return to their jobs, and to post the names of detainees in police stations and courthouses.
In remarks that he said may have been overtaken by events in Iraq that were being reported as he entered the Security Council chamber, Mr. Brahimi said that anything other than a peaceful resolution to standoffs in Falluja and Najaf would have grave consequences.
In issuing the warning, he acknowledged that the American-run Coalition Provisional Authority was "well aware" of that fact. "They know as well as — indeed, better than everyone else — that the consequences of such bloodshed could be dramatic and long-lasting," he said.
He added, however, "Reports today of attacks from and on a mosque are a source of shock and dismay."
In the closed Security Council meeting that followed Mr. Brahimi's public statement, ambassadors asked questions that a European diplomat characterized as "supportive" rather than "challenging." She said the questions focused on three areas: the post-transition responsibility for security, the preparation for elections, and whether the transfer of sovereignty would be a convincing one to Iraqis.
The Council had put off discussion of the resolution it would be adopting for post-transition Iraq until hearing from Mr. Brahimi, and a number of ambassadors said those negotiations should begin, the diplomat said.
Mr. Brahimi said he intended to return to Baghdad soon to continue his consultations, and he indicated that he believed the violence could not be allowed to hold Iraqis back from securing an independent future.
"So is it possible for the process to proceed under such circumstances?" he asked. "Will it be viable? Will it be credible?"
Supplying his own answer, he said, "There is no alternative but to find a way of making the process viable and credible."