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Bush: Iraq government to be named soon

Gen. Abizaid warns of increasing violence


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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld listens as Bush speaks on Iraq.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States expects decisions to be made in a "couple of weeks" about the makeup of the interim Iraqi government that will take power after June 30, President Bush told reporters Wednesday.

The Bush administration has asked U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to choose members of a new government for Iraq, which would run the country until elections could be held in 2005.

"I anticipate in the next couple of weeks, decisions will be made toward who will be the president and the vice presidents, as well as the prime minister and other ministers," Bush said after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday morning.

The president said Secretary of State Colin Powell was consulting with U.N. Security Council members to build support for that resolution -- which also would authorize the presence of U.S. troops at the head of a multinational force that would retain control over Iraqi security forces.

Currently, about 138,000 U.S. troops and another 20,000 allied troops are based in Iraq.

Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command which includes troops in Iraq, told a Senate committee earlier in the day that more troops might be needed to secure the country after the handover -- but he said a new U.N. resolution could encourage other countries to contribute to the force.

However, he warned that conditions in Iraq could deteriorate further in the days after an Iraqi government takes power, "because it will remain unclear what's going to happen between the interim government and elections."

"Moving through the election period will be violent," Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "And it could very well be more violent than we're seeing today, so it's possible that we might need more forces."

At the United Nations, Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said progress toward choosing an interim government has been "excellent," but "we continue to face a very tight timeline."

Cunningham presented the monthly U.S. report to the Security Council, required under the resolution that recognized the American-led coalition as the occupying power in Iraq.

Brahimi returned to Iraq earlier this month to consult with Iraqis about prospects for posts in the new government, and "those consultations are ongoing," Cunningham said.

In addition to Cabinet ministers, a president and vice president and a prime minister, Brahimi's proposal calls for a national conference in July to select an advisory council to the new government.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Brahimi has been consulting with U.S. administrator Paul Bremer as well as other coalition officials.

CNN producer Liz Neisloss contributed to this report.


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