INTERNATIONAL

U.S. looking for ways to hasten transfer of power

WASHINGTON NOV. 13. Faced with increased resistance on almost a daily basis in Iraq and a damning intelligence report, the Bush administration is looking for ways to accelerate the transfer of power in that country, but without giving the impression that the U.S. is straying from its original objectives.

According to the new scheme of things, the Republican administration is studying if the timetable for self-government could be moved up, and according to a media report, is toying with the idea of first holding elections and turning over the country to a temporary government even before a constitution is in place.

The process will be over by the middle of next year and would have taken care of two things: the demands of the Iraqis and many in the international community for the speedy transfer of power; and getting out of the mess before the November presidential elections of 2004.

It is believed that an Interim Iraqi leader would be named who will have the authority to govern the country until such time as a constitution could be written and elections held.

There is also the apprehension apparently in administration circles of disturbing the existing scheme of things or in making the Shia-Sunni divides sharper.

Administration officials are tight-lipped on what is transpiring in the White House and in other circles as far as this new Iraq plan. But the general thinking is that anything to speed up the process over handing over power will lessen the danger to American and coalition troops in that country.

"We're looking at all sorts of ideas and we do want to accelerate the pace of reform", remarked the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. The President, George W. Bush, had called for a meeting of his national security advisors on Wednesday — a session that was attended by the top American civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, who has rushed to Washington for consultations. The Bush administration is saying that the Iraqi Governing Council would have to be consulted first; and is stressing that whatever comes by way of decision will be from the Council and not imposed by the U.S.

It is also an open secret that Washington is not quite enthused at the way in which its Council has been functioning. In fact, an unnamed administration official has been quoted in a agency report as saying that one thinking is for a smaller council of about ten members — as opposed to the present 24 — or making one person as a strong leader of the present council.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bremer refused to subscribe to the notion that the Iraqi Governing Council is "failing" and has said that there are a lot of discussions going on in Iraq and in the U.S. on the way to go forward.

He was asked if the administration has changed its position and whether there would be an interim government before a constitution is written "...there are lots of discussions being held in Baghdad among members of the Governing Council; a lot of discussions here and there", he replied.