PM: We'll give Iraq back to the Iraqis as quickly as we can

The Government of Iraq will be handed over to the Iraqi people as soon as possible after the war, under a three-stage plan to restore democracy to the country, Tony Blair promised yesterday.

Britain is acting as the go-between in an attempt to reach a consensus between the United States and Europe over how post-conflict Iraq should be run. Although Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, is sceptical about involving the United Nations, the Prime Minister has allied himself with Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, who is sympathetic to the UN playing a key role. Mr Blair hopes that he persuaded President George Bush to allow it during their talks at Camp David last week.

In another rift with Mr Rumsfeld, Mr Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, pointedly refused to endorse his threat to extend military action to Iran and Syria. Mr Straw said that Britain would have "nothing whatever" to do with it.

Stage one of the emerging blueprint for Iraq would be an administration headed by Jay Garner, a retired American lieutenant-general who runs the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. Six British officials have been attached to this body in Kuwait and Washington.

General Garner would work closely with a "special commissioner" to be appointed by the United Nations and with outside experts and administrators. US and UK forces would ensure law and order, in addition to securing Iraq's borders. Britain appears to have blocked plans by the Pentagon for 23 American "overlords" to run Iraq's ministries.

Stage two, which would follow several months later, would be an "interim Iraqi authority". The Iraqi people would be strongly represented, as would the United Nations and possibly countries such as France and Germany. A conference of Iraqis would be called to ensure that the authority was "broadly representative" before elections were held.

Stage three would involve elections to create a fully-fledged Iraqi government. Mr Blair told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday: "As soon as possible, Iraq should not be run either by the coalition or by the United Nations; it should be run by Iraqis."

He admitted there will be difficulties over the transition to the Iraqi interim authority, and there were differences over how to achieve that goal, but he said he believed the international community would reach agreement.

Mr Blair said: "If people can see that the Iraqi people are given freedom, given the ability to have a proper representative government, given protection on human rights, are able to enjoy their prosperity, I believe that across the Arab and Muslim world the message will be positive."

The Prime Minister said that there were "issues" over the UN's credibility but "for all its faults most people still recognise the UN as the right forum for legitimacy in the international community". Mr Blair was challenged by Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, over whether President Bush wanted the post-conflict administration to be "UN-led or American-led".

The Prime Minister replied: "In the immediate aftermath of the conflict of course the coalition forces will be there. There is no way that they are suddenly going to disappear from the ground. The UN has made it quite clear itself it doesn't want to lead an Iraqi government. What it wants is the ability to work with us in partnership to make sure we assemble the broadest possible representation from within Iraq itself."

Mike O'Brien, the Foreign Office Minister, told BBC2's Newsnight programme last night that although the US would dominate the arrangements, the UN would have a key role. He agreed that 90 days was one timescale envisaged for the US/UN administration but made clear that it could be much longer before free elections could be held.

Diplomatic manoeuvring over the administration of post-war Iraq is continuing apace. Mr Straw met Joschka Fischer, his German counterpart, in Berlin last night and will meet the foreign ministers of France and Russia in Brussels today.

Mr Blair hopes to secure a UN resolution to approve the blueprint for post-war Iraq. One aide said: "He is trying to bring Europe and America together. He doesn't want to be in one camp or the other but to build bridges between them."

The Prime Minister told the Commons that the killing of eight women and children at a US checkpoint at Karbala was "a terrible tragedy" but added that soldiers at checkpoints were placed in "a very difficult situation". He said a "full inquiry" was under way but pointed out that there were also "tragedies we do not see" being perpetrated by Iraqi forces.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015