BAGHDAD, Iraq – A former foreign minister tipped as a possible compromise candidate to head Iraq's interim government blamed the United States on Wednesday for Iraq's persistent lawlessness and the failure to restore basic services a month after major combat ended.
Adnan Pachachi (search), a respected politician who returned to his native Iraq this month after 32 years in exile, also said any future government must be given a free hand in managing the country's assets and its vast oil wealth.
He also called upon the United Nations to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein's regime for invading Kuwait in 1990.
"There is a consensus among citizens that quick measures must be taken to ensure security and stability in the country," the 80-year-old Pachachi told hundreds of supporters in a luxury Baghdad hotel on the Tigris River.
The United States, while acknowledging problems, has said it is committed to restoring security and getting postwar Iraq going.
Pachachi said power, health care and humanitarian services must be swiftly restored. "These are tasks that the United States and relevant U.N. agencies should have carried out."
His address drew applause from the audience — mostly men in suits who sat for nearly two hours in the stifling heat of an unlighted banquet hall. The hotel has no power and organizers cut the meeting short because of the heat.
Pachachi called for the swift formation of an interim government, saying the hopes of the Iraqi people centered on the "restoration of state institutions."
"No foreign authority or administration can be a substitute for this because the Iraqi people are determined to restore their national will and their self-determination," he said, adding that the U.N. Security Council should ensure the country an immediate "legal Iraqi representation."
Pachachi was referring to a draft resolution presented Friday to the council by the United States, Britain and Spain — allies in the U.S.-led war on Iraq that ousted Saddam — to lift sanctions on Iraq.
Like Saddam and his small clique of close supporters, Pachachi is a member of Iraq's Sunni (search) Arab minority.
In February, he set up the Independent Democrats Movement (search) to provide a platform for Iraqis who do not endorse a religious government and also want to distinguish themselves from U.S.-linked politicians such as Ahmad Chalabi (search) of the Iraqi National Congress.
Since then, the Arab media has raised his profile and mentioned him as part of a possible postwar leadership council. U.S. civil administrator Jay Garner has mentioned his name when discussing Iraq's future.
Critics, especially some senior clergymen in Iraq's Shiite (search) Muslim majority, see attempts to place Pachachi atop an interim government as a ploy by the Sunnis to maintain their historical grip on politics in Iraq.
Shiite opposition could diminish Pachachi's chances of heading an interim government — but may not be enough to prevent him from becoming one of its leaders.
Pachachi said earlier this month that he had no wish to join an interim administration and claimed he had "no political ambitions whatsoever." Still, Wednesday's meeting appeared to be a political move.
In a gray suit and a red-and-yellow stripped tie, he arrived at the hotel surrounded by a dozen aides wearing smart suits and a plethora of armed bodyguards. He was given bouquets of flowers by two children — a boy in a black tuxedo and a girl in a white dress.
His remarks were also labeled "a historic speech" by the aide who introduced him.