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Annan to Visit Washington

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) will meet here Tuesday with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to plan for the dispatch of a U.N. team to Iraq.

Annan will bring with him to Washington an agenda that also includes trying to find a solution to Cyprus' division and planning for a donors' conference on Liberia (search) scheduled for Friday in New York, a U.S. official said.

The Bush administration is hoping Annan's delegation to Baghdad can find a formula to overcome Shiite grumbling over U.S. plans for a transition to civilian rule (search) July 1.

On Cyprus (search), after years of stalemate, Annan is promoting a proposal to resolve a 30-year dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots over Turkish troops' occupation of about 40 percent of the island nation.

Liberia is emerging from a destructive civil war that was settled last August with U.N. intervention. The African country is in desperate economic and social condition.

Annan wants to be sure the experts he is sending to Iraq can be protected from the violence that has bedeviled U.S.-led reconstruction efforts. The administration, for its part, would like the United Nations to return to Iraq after being driven out by terror attacks.

"I think we are making progress," Annan said Friday in Brussels, Belgium. "The coalition has indicated to me, has promised us, it will do its utmost to protect the team that will work in Iraq. Therefore, in the next few days, the team should be able to travel to start work."

The United Nations pulled out of Iraq last October after two bombings at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and an upsurge in attacks against humanitarian targets. In the first suicide bombing, in August, 22 people, including Annan's special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello (search), were killed.

The U.N. team is to examine whether it is possible to organize early elections as demanded by Shiite Muslim (search) clergy, or whether a provisional government should be set up through other mechanisms.

U.S. officials fear early elections could lead to greater violence and want members of a new legislature to be named in regional caucuses. The legislature would in turn choose a new government to take power by July 1, formally ending the U.S.-led occupation.

The United States is hoping the U.N. intervention could break a deadlock between its coalition authority in Iraq and a powerful Islamic cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani who is leading the call for early elections.

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