Shi'ite opposition to boycott Iraq meeting


Iraq's main Shi'ite Muslim opposition group said today it would boycott aUS-sponsored meeting of Iraqi organisations in Iraq to map outthe postwar political future of the country.

The Iranian-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolutionin Iraq (SCIRI), which draws its support from Iraq's Shi'itemajority, said the meeting in the southern Iraqi city ofNassiriya would not benefit the Iraqi people.

"We are not going to attend the Nassiriya meeting because itis not to the benefit of the Iraqi nation," Mr Abdelaziz Hakim, aSCIRI leader, told a news conference.

"From the beginning, independence has been our manifesto. Wedon't accept a US umbrella or anybody else's," he said.

The Nassiriya meeting will be overseen by retired USGeneral Jay Garner, head of a transitional administrationcharged with running Iraq immediately after the US-led warthat toppled Saddam Hussein.

About 60 Iraqis are expected to attend Tuesday's talks,among them radical and mainstream Shi'ite and Sunni groups,Kurds and the former monarchy, overthrown in 1958. Shi'ites makeup about 60 per cent of Iraq's 26 million people.

Mr Hakim reiterated his group's view that Gen Garner'sadministration, the Office of Reconstruction and HumanitarianAssistance, "is not the correct method" to run Iraq in theaftermath of the war.