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Selection of Iraq Gov't Likely Delayed

Selection of Iraq Gov't Likely Delayed

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Creation of an interim government for occupied Iraq will have to wait until midsummer, the American civilian administrator said Wednesday.

L. Paul Bremer's comments came barely three weeks after the Americans set a timetable of early June for a new government.

"We're talking now like sometime in July to get a national conference put together," Bremer, head of the U.S.-led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, told reporters while attending the opening of an Iraqi jail. "I don't think it will be in June."

Pressed further, Bremer replied: "Mid-July."

U.S. officials' comments about the government had grown hazier in recent days, with Bremer saying the job would be difficult without first restoring security, getting basic services back on line and paying people who have gone weeks with no salaries.

Those problems have taken a front seat in the 10 days since Bremer took over as the top American civilian in Iraq.

The new delay fueled skepticism many Iraqis already feel about U.S. intentions.

"Bremer's statement seems one in a series of untrue promises aimed to keep the situation as it is," said Hassan al-Jbouri, an Oil Ministry employee. "They don't want to see a government that would sooner or later demand that the U.S. occupier leave."

"Why this postponement?" said Yadullah Jani Ulfat, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. "This procrastination just means they're trying to form a government of parties that are in complete line with their own policies."

On April 28, U.S. officials said they struck an agreement with Iraqi factions to hold the third in a series of conferences on postwar Iraq within a month. They said a government could be in place within days after that.

Influential politicians -- from exile groups to two Kurdish leaders and a key Shiite Muslim religious group -- have been holding frequent talks with the Americans, and Bremer suggested more inclusiveness was in order.

"We want a government representative of all Iraqi people," he said. "That's the process we're in now. We are moving as quickly as we can."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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