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The World | SHOWDOWN WITH IRAQ

A U.N.-Backed Vote in Iraq May Avert War, Tehran Says

March 05, 2003|From Associated Press

DOHA, Qatar — Iran offered a plan Tuesday to avert war in Iraq by holding elections supervised by the United Nations -- one of several proposals that emerged as Muslim leaders prepared for a summit focused on the U.S.-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein.

Calls for the Iraqi president to consider a life in exile have grown as leaders of the Persian Gulf region wage a determined diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis.

As officials from the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference gathered in Qatar for a summit that begins today, Iran called for the United Nations to conduct free elections in Iraq and urged the Iraqi opposition to reconcile with Hussein as part of a plan aimed at averting war.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi announced the plan in Tehran, but it was not clear whether Iran would formally present the ideas at the summit.

Another proposal that might be aired at the meeting is an initiative by the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed ibn Sultan al Nuhayyan, urging Hussein to step down to avoid a U.S.-led attack.

Emirates leaders said they want the conference to discuss the initiative, which was shunned by an Arab League summit in Egypt over the weekend but has garnered support from a number of gulf states.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a staunch antiwar advocate who arrived in Qatar on Tuesday, said Islamic states have discussed using oil as a "weapon" to avert a possible U.S.-led war but have failed to reach a consensus.

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