updated 8/18/2004 1:48:24 PM ET 2004-08-18T17:48:24

Iraq's National Conference chose members for an interim national council Wednesday night, but a planned vote on the decision was called off at the last minute and conference organizers simply affirmed a list of candidates.

Disputes over how to choose the 81 members of the council, which is to act as a watchdog over the interim government until elections scheduled or January, had forced the conference organizers to extend the meeting into Wednesday for an unscheduled fourth day.

The delegates were originally to vote on one slate of candidates, which would have had to garner 65 percent of the vote to become part of the new council. However, some smaller parties felt they did not have enough of a voice in the slate and organizers decided to allow several different lists to compete.

By Wednesday evening, the delegates had gathered to choose between two candidate lists, when one was suddenly withdrawn. Without ever holding a vote on the only remaining list, the conference organizers declared it the winner.

The organizers said they had consulted with their legal advisers and U.N. representatives before declaring the winning slate.

Many of the delegates politely clapped after the announcement of the winning group of 81.

The final 19 seats of the 100-member body will be filled by members of the former U.S.-appointed Governing Council who were not included in the interim government.

The council will have the power to approve the national budget, veto executive orders with a two-thirds majority and appoint replacements to the Cabinet in the event a minister dies or resigns.

Earlier on Wednesday, the 43-member delegation from Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, pulled out of the conference, protesting the number of candidates they were given on the council list, delegation member Isra Saad said. The delegates wanted three slots and were only given one, while Baghdad received four.

"We are the city of oil, the city of revolution and martyrs and we're being deliberately neglected by the conference committee," Saad said.

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