Press conference by
’S UN REPRESENTATIVE IRAQ
Sunday’s election was an occasion for celebration, Samir Sumaidaie, Permanent Representative of
to the United Nations, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this morning. Collectively, as a nation, Iraq had marked the beginning of a new era, and there was a sense of achievement among the people. Iraq
Today, the mood in
was very different from what it had been a week ago, he continued, when, along with excitement, there had been worry, trepidation and pain. Now, people were talking about the future in positive terms. Despite day-to-day difficulties and ever-present risks and dangers, there was a feeling of elation. However, he was under no illusion that all the objectives had been achieved. The elections were just a beginning, but they were a positive beginning. After the huge blow that the terrorists and everything that they represented had taken on Sunday, the country had a better chance of moving forward. Baghdad
Paying tribute to all those who had helped
to hold successful elections under very difficult circumstances, he said that, from the beginning, the United Nations assistance team had “held the country’s hand”. Sunday’s events had demonstrated that the Iraqi people could manage such a complex process and execute it from beginning to end. Despite serious difficulties and risks, including death threats, millions of people had come out to make their will known. Iraq
He added that the future of
would be determined by elected Iraqi leaders. Every possibility was on the table, and he had confidence that the leaders of the country would be responsible enough “to keep Iraq together”, united as a State. At the same time, too much centralization presented a problem, having created a dictatorship in Iraq , and there was general agreement that it was necessary to decentralize power. Iraq
Responding to several questions about the results of the vote, Mr. Sumaidaie said that preliminary results would be available tomorrow. Final results would not be produced until out-of-country votes had been counted. Once the results were finalized, no time would be lost in installing the new Government. Early consultations had already started, and under transitional administering law the whole process should be completed within one month.
Regarding the role of the Sunni population, given their low voter turn-out, he said that, as a person coming from a Sunni area, he could attest to the fact that, contrary to some reports, most Sunnis wanted to participate. There was a sense of frustration and loss, because for one reason or another they had been prevented from voting. The terrorists were most active in the Sunni-populated areas, but the general sense in the Sunni community was that the elections were “a good step forward”. They wanted to be involved in the next round of the elections.
On their part in the writing of the constitution, he said that there was a determination by all parties to make sure that everybody was included in the drafting of the constitution. Under the transitional law, if three provinces rejected the draft, it could not be adopted. Thus, no constitution would be approved unless it was acceptable to all the communities.
As for the out-of-country voting, he said Iraqis abroad had encountered many difficulties, but a surprising number of people had made the effort. There were stories about people travelling more than a thousand miles, first to register and then to vote.
To a query about the future role of the United Nations, he said that
needed the United Nations “on a number of fronts”. For instance, the Organization could provide Iraq with technical assistance for the drafting of the constitution. It could also play an important role in the area of development. He hoped to persuade the United Nations to put more people on the ground, especially in such areas as Iraq , where the security situation was better. Basra
He added that, since his arrival last September, he had been working very hard “to unshackle
” from the burdens of the previous regime. Iraq was now a new country with a new orientation, new politics and new direction. It had clearly declared that it wanted to be at peace with its neighbours and did not want to pose any threat to anyone. The remnants of the sanctions that had been placed on the previous regime were inappropriate, and he would be working to remove all their effects. Iraq
To a follow-up question about the “remnants of sanctions”, he said that the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) was one example. It was a bureaucracy created to make sure that
did not have weapons of mass destruction. Now it was generally acknowledged that Iraq did not pose such a threat and did not have any weapons of mass destruction. Thus, it was important to close those files and remove the legacy of Saddam’s rule. Also, the effects of Iraq ’s invasion of Iraq came up regularly on the Security Council agenda. The two countries were good neighbours now, and it was time to clean the slate in that regard. Kuwait
Asked about the measures to ensure accuracy and transparency of the counting of votes, Mr. Sumaidaie said that as a “person who is also in the running”, he was as concerned as anybody else about the fairness of the process. Observers from all the parties participating in the elections watched the process “from A to Z”. The system introduced by the Independent Election Commission was working quite well. Some irregularities that had been flagged early on were being investigated. An international mission for the Iraqi elections had reported that the elections generally met international standards in terms of election law, planning and preparation.
As for the role of
soldiers, he said that they were “nowhere near” the election process. As for the question of troop withdrawal, it would be irresponsible to raise it before the security gap had been filled. United States
Reports suggested that, out of the $20 billion raised in oil revenues during the United States-led occupation, up to $9 billion was unaccounted for, a reporter said. How would the new Government deal with that issue and ensure that the money belonging to the Iraqi people was indeed spent for their benefit?
Mr. Sumaidaie replied that he did not have full figures, but the principle was that the country would actively inquire into what had happened with the Iraqi money. “We will want to get to the bottom of that and insist on accountability”, he said. We will do everything possible to recover what can be recovered. This belongs to the Iraqi people, and we have a duty to answer to the Iraqi people what happened to their money.”
Asked to comment on pictures of women wearing shawls and standing in separate lines, he said that
was a free country, and women -– as well as men -- could wear what they wanted. If they felt more comfortable in Islamic dress, he was not going to object to that. Women were participating in large numbers. Trends, however, came and went. When he was younger, there had been a big trend towards modern dress. In recent years, a trend in the opposite direction had appeared. Iraq
To a follow-up question, he said that, in some areas, there might be an element of fear, as well. That was very regrettable. That was against the new principles that he would like
to adhere to –- freedom of choice for everybody. Even the political parties representing Islamist groups had agreed that, in principle, any dress restrictions were wrong. There should be no intimidation. Iraq
Asked if the country’s new constitution would be drafted within the country or presented to the Iraqi people once it had been prepared outside of
, Mr. Sumaidaie said that he found such a question very strange. Having taken part in the drafting of the transitional administrative law, he knew how hard the participants had fought over each clause and sentence, until they reached consensus. He did not see why the people of Iraq would now go to some other party for a constitution to adopt. Iraq
Would the new Iraqi Government be open to inspections to ensure that it did not develop nuclear, chemical or other weapons of mass destruction? a correspondent asked. Mr. Sumaidaie answered that
would be open to international procedures like any other independent sovereign nation. However, it did not want to continue to be singled out for victimization, because the time of Saddam was gone and the country was entering a new era. Iraq
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