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US rules out Iraq polls for at least one year
Updated: 2004-02-21 17:32

The U.S. administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer has ruled out a possibility to hold elections for a year to 15 months, the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television channel reported on Saturday.

In an interview with Al Arabiya, Bremer said Iraq needed time to prepare for elections.

"These technical problems will take time to fix. We estimate somewhere between a year to 15 months...There are real important technical problems why elections are not possible," he was quoted as saying.

Bremer further explained that "Iraq has no election law, it has no national commission to even establish a national law governing political parties, it has no voters' lists, it has not had a credible, reliable census for almost 20 years," he said.

His remarks has put him at odds with the country's most powerful religious leader who has insisted any delay must be brief.

Iraq's powerful Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had demanded direct elections before June 30 but recently agreed with a UN envoy that polls required adequate preparations widely seen as holding the key to Iraq's political future.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has backed the US position that it would not be feasible to hold elections before the planned American handover of power to Iraqis on June 30.

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