Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"The timing of how long the coalition stays here is now effectively in the hands of the Iraqi people," the administrator, L. Paul Bremer, said at a news conference here.

The 25-member, U.S.-appointed council, which was formed over the weekend, has the power to set up a commission that would recommend to the occupation authority how a constitution should be written.

Once the commission provides its views, U.S. officials said, the occupation authority, with the advice of the council, will select a group of Iraqis to draft the constitution. When it is finished, the document will be put to a national referendum. If it is approved, elections will be held and Iraq's first democratic government will take office.

"Then our job -- the coalition's job -- will be done," Bremer said. "We have no desire to stay any longer than necessary."

Although Bremer did not venture an estimate of how long the whole process would take, several U.S. officials and Iraqi political leaders have said it would require at least a year, perhaps two, to seat a new government. "We're talking about 18 months to two years from now," said Mowaffak Rubaie, a member of the council...

Di Rita added that a rotation system for replacing U.S. forces in Iraq with units based in the United States would involve Army forces and possibly Marines.

Analysts and defense officials said the system being developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff could involve the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Tex.; the 25th Infantry Division, based in Hawaii; a new Stryker Brigade based at Fort Lewis, Wash., that should be certified for deployment this fall; and a half-dozen National Guard brigades...

In its meeting today -- the second since it was formed on Sunday -- the Governing Council said it would set up a special court to try former members of Hussein's government.

"We're going to put on trial everybody who committed crimes against humanity, everyone who committed genocide, everyone who committed a war crime," said Entifadh Qanbar, a senior official of the Iraqi National Congress, whose leader, Ahmed Chalabi, is a member of the council. Qanbar said the court would seek to try Hussein if he is captured, along with other top leaders of the former government, several of whom are already in U.S. custody.

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