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Governing Iraq: Background

September 25, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: When the United Nations General Assembly convened this week in New York, Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party loyalists did not take Iraq’s seat for the first time in more than 30 years.

Instead, members of the American-picked Iraqi governing council took their places in the chamber.

Representatives of the 25-member council held two days of talks with U.N. officials and other member nations, but the leading candidate to become Iraq’s next ambassador to the U.N. was not there. Akila al-Hashimi, one of three women on Iraq’s governing council, had been critically wounded on Saturday, in an attack by unidentified gunmen in western Baghdad.

And the 50-year-old Hashimi died today in a U.S. military hospital. A spokesman for the governing council reacted to the news.

ENTIFADH QANBAR, Iraqi Governing Council Spokesman: Baathist and Saddam’s followers who are desperate to return back to the status before the liberation of Iraq have committed this crime. This is a very unfortunate loss for the governing council. I think Ms. Al-Hashimi… it will be difficult to find a replacement for her. However, the governing council, in spite of its outrage, they are going forward with their tasks.

RAY SUAREZ: Al-Hashimi’s death came on a day of more violence in postwar Iraq. The bombing of the Baghdad offices of NBC News, and continued ambushes on U.S. forces, have triggered more concern about security.

Two attacks in as many months on United Nations offices in Baghdad killed more than 20 people, and prompted officials in New York to cut back the U.N. presence in Iraq.

FRED ECKHARD: This is not an evacuation, just a further downsizing. And the security situation in the country remains under constant review. Meanwhile, our essential humanitarian activities in Iraq continue, thanks to the efforts of our more than 4,000 national staff in the country.

RAY SUAREZ: All of this comes against a backdrop of diplomacy and debate at the U.N. on how quickly to return power to the Iraqi people. The French, and others, have pushed for a rapid transfer of sovereignty. But the Bush administration has called for a written constitution and elections to precede any handover.