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Opposition groups meet in Baghdad to discuss the new Iraq

Monday, April 28, 2003

ABU DHABI Iraqi opposition groups are meeting in Baghdad to discuss the future of the country.

The groups will focus on the formation of an interim government that would run Iraq until the country is stabilized. Up to 400 Iraqi opposition representatives are expected to attend Monday's session, arranged by the United States, with some of the members warning that the process of stabilization could take years.

"The coalition forces are still present in the Iraqi arena," Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said. "This presence requires collaboration and patience to achieve the goal."

[On Sunday, four U.S. soldiers were injured in an ambush in Baghdad as they were conducting a civil affairs mission, Middle East Newsline reported. A statement by U.S. Central Command said the soldiers were attacked when their vehicle stopped at a traffic light.]

The United States said it will run Iraq until the country is deemed ready for self-rule. No deadline has been set as anti-U.S. unrest grows in Iraq.

"Iraqis will set the agenda and discuss the vital issues," U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said on Friday. "This should accelerate the dialogue and transition to the establishment of an interim Iraqi authority."

"Coalition efforts to defeat regime pockets of resistance are proving successful, but this latest incident is evidence that despite the significant decrease in active military operations, dangers are still present," Central Command said.

Iraqi opposition leaders tied to the West said their toughest challenge will be that of Iran, which has been mobilizing Shi'ite clerics to oppose any U.S.-aligned democracy in Iraq. The leaders said Iranian ruling clerics have been financing a movement against the United States in an aim to turn Iraq into a fundamentalist Shi'ite state.

On April 8, Shi'ite cleric Khadem Hussein Haeri, an Iraqi native based in the Iranian city of Qom, issued a ruling that Shi'ite clerics in Iraq must seize power immediately. The edict called on the Iraqi clerics to work against the U.S. presence in Iraq and take over all civilian services in Shi'ite-populated cities.

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