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Iraq: Annan To Send UN Team As Soon As Practicable

Iraq: Annan To Send UN Team 'As Soon As Practicable'

Responding to a letter from the Iraqi Governing Council welcoming United Nations help with the transition to sovereignty at the end of June and future national elections, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that he was prepared to send a UN team into Iraq "as soon as practicable."

The Secretary-General told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that he had replied to the Governing Council's letter received earlier today and that he was getting ready to send a team led by Lakhdar Brahimi, his Special Adviser.

A spokesman for the Secretary-General said Mr. Annan and Mr. Brahimi discussed the letter sent by the Council's President, Mohammed Bahr Al-Uloom, which welcomed UN consultation on the broad national dialogue regarding the shape and scope of the interim government.

The letter also said that the Governing Council looked forward to UN assistance with direct elections to take place before the end of January next year, spokesman Fred Eckhard said. He noted that a similar letter was received this morning from L. Paul Bremer, the United States administrator in Iraq.

Asked by reporters whether Mr. Brahimi had confidence in the message relayed to him by an aide of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, which had been mentioned in the previous day's briefing, the spokesman said he thought that Mr. Brahimi had no doubt that the message came from the Ayatollah.

Responding to a question about the impact of Wednesday's bombing in Baghdad, Mr. Eckhard said the security situation was still not good and it would be evaluated carefully before sending staff back. Nonetheless, long-term planning for a return to Iraq continued, with special emphasis on security provisions.

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