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Powell: Iraqi Constitution wanted in six months
( 2003-09-27 11:20) (CNN)

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that six months is an appropriate time period for the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to complete a new constitution.

At a news conference at the United Nations, Powell said he and the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq believe a half-year would be right to determine the form of government and representation that Iraqis would like to see.

If it's possible to meet that goal, he said, then it would be "appropriate to consider that shortly thereafter the people will be able to ratify such a constitution and prepare for elections."

Powell declined to put a time frame on when elections would be held in Iraq.

"I really can't be precise," he said. "Some people have said it will take another six months for elections."

He reiterated that the United States is "prepared to remain as long as it is necessary to put in place a representative form of government in Iraq."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Powell's six-month figure is "a realistic estimate of how long it might take to draft a constitution."

"The resolution we are pursuing does not include a timetable," he said, referring to the U.S. effort for a new U.N. mandate. "It says the timetable will be set by the Governing Council working with the coalition.

"Obviously we want to do this as quickly as possible, but we want it to be done in an orderly fashion."

Powell conferred Thursday with the foreign ministers of the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- France, Britain, Russia and China -- and with members of the Governing Council.

After his meeting with the foreign ministers, Powell said steps were under way to accelerate the creation of a national police force and army.

"We welcome Iraqis taking over security responsibilities," but "intention" is one thing and "capabilities" another, Powell said. An insufficient security force "doesn't take you anywhere," he said.

In Baghdad, the interim council said Powell's time frame for the completion of a constitution is "right on track" with its actions.

A spokesman said that a committee will make a recommendation to the council by the end of the month on how to write and form a constitution.

Powell said he expects that the six-month time frame would get under way once the work begins on creating a document.

National Guard units mobilized

Two U.S. Army National Guard units, previously alerted that they would be going to Iraq, are getting orders to mobilize next month.

The orders mobilize about 10,000 National Guard troops. Another 5,000 troops were put on alert.

Mobilization is the next step before the units deploy to Iraq sometime late this year or early next year.

The troops will be mobilized for up to 18 months and can expect to pull one-year tours in Iraq.

These troops were already scheduled to be sent to Iraq under a troop-rotation plan announced by the Pentagon in July.

The Pentagon has not yet made a decision about calling up 10,000 additional guard or reserve troops that may be needed if the United States fails to get enough foreign troops to man a third multinational peacekeeping division in Iraq.

A senior Pentagon official told CNN that an agreement might soon be reached with South Korea to head up that division, which could forestall the call-up of the additional troops.

Under Friday's orders, the 30th Infantry brigade from North Carolina will mobilize Wednesday, and the 39th Infantry Brigade from Arkansas will mobilize by October 12.

Each Army National Guard brigade is made up of about 5,000 troops, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

An additional 5,000 troops from the 81st Army National Guard Infantry Brigade from Washington state have been put on alert and will get mobilization orders some time in the future.

More than 172,000 Reserve and National Guard troops are on active duty in support of the partial mobilization.

The services are constantly mobilizing some units and individuals while demobilizing others. Overall, the total number of reservists on active duty decreased this week by 2,080.

More violence

A member of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade has been killed and two others wounded in an attack in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the Coalition Press Information Center said Friday.

A rocket-propelled grenade struck a vehicle the soldiers were riding in Thursday night. The wounded were evacuated for treatment.

Since the war began in March, 307 U.S. troops have died in Iraq -- 196 in hostile fire and 111 in "nonhostile" incidents, which include accidents.

In other violence, an improvised explosive device exploded Friday morning beneath a convoy of U.S. military Humvees, injuring three soldiers, the U.S. military said. The device was apparently set off remotely, according to the U.S-led coalition.

Backed by the U.S. military, Iraqi police later raided an electronics shop in the north-central city of Tikrit and detained an Iraqi man for questioning in connection with the blast. The soldiers were being treated at a military hospital in Tikrit, the ancestral homeland of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Other developments
? Assassinated Iraqi Governing Council member Aquila al-Hashimi was buried Friday in a flag-draped coffin in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Najaf. Accompanied by thousands of mourners, the funeral procession arrived in al-Hashimi's hometown a day after she died of wounds suffered in an ambush Saturday near her home in Baghdad.

? A chartered plane carrying nearly 200 U.S. troops from Iraq landed Friday morning at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The troops are the first soldiers deployed to Iraq to get a two-week leave for rest and recuperation.

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