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Iraqi Opposition Leader Expects Democratic Government In 2 Years - 2003-04-18


An Iraqi opposition leader says he believes Iraq will have a new permanent democratically-elected government within two years.

But Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, told reporters in Baghdad that he does not want a position in an interim government set up to administer the country temporarily.

Mr. Chalabi said the first step in rebuilding Iraq is the restoration of basic services, including electricity and water. He said U-S officials will coordinate that work, which he said would be completed in "weeks, not months."

Mr. Chalabi said an interim administration of Iraqis will then be set up to govern the country temporarily and draft a new constitution. Iraq could then hold general elections for a permanent government -- a process that Mr. Chalabi said should be completed within two years.

The news conference was Mr. Chalabi's first public appearance since he returned to Baghdad earlier this week. His anti-Saddam Iraqi National Congress was based in London.

One of Mr. Chalabi's top associates Thursday declared himself as Baghdad's new mayor. But US military spokesman General Vincent Brooks said today (Friday) that no new local leaders have yet been officially selected and that the Iraqi political process is just starting.

US officials say the process will include a series of meetings of representatives of different Iraqi groups. The first such meeting was held earlier this week in southern Iraq

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