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7/15/03 - IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL - 2003-07-17

A national governing council has begun operating in Iraq. The council brings together, for the first time in Iraq’s history, a representative group of political leaders from the different regions of the country. They are drawn from among former exiles and those who were able to remain in Iraq despite the Baathist regime. The twenty-five members include Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Kurds, a Christian, and a Turkmen. Three members are women.

The council was formed in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution Fourteen-Eighty-Three. Its first actions were to eliminate holidays established to celebrate the Baathist regime and selecting a delegation to consult with the U-N Security Council.

Aside from working with the coalition on day-to-day matters, the governing council will help launch a constitutional process in Iraq. The constitution, said Paul Bremer, U.S. Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, “will be written by Iraqis and for Iraqis. It will not be written by the coalition. Once the constitution is written,” said Ambassador Bremer, “the Iraqi people will have an opportunity to approve it. Then [Iraqis] will elect a sovereign government. And the coalition’s job will be done.”

The national governing council is only one sign of the move toward freedom in Iraq. All major Iraqi cities and eighty-five percent of towns now have a municipal council. Iraqis are increasingly taking responsibility for local affairs like health care, water, and electricity.

In addition, more than one-hundred fifty newspapers have started publishing since Iraq’s liberation from the Saddam Hussein tyranny. As Ambassador Bremer put it, “Iraqis are speaking out and demonstrating with a vigor borne of thirty-five years of imposed silence.”

But a small number of Iraqis -- members of the former regime’s instruments of repression -- oppose such freedom. They are joined by foreign terrorists and bands of criminals. They “will stop at nothing,” said President George W. Bush, “to regain their power and their privilege”:

“But there will be no return to tyranny in Iraq. And those who threaten the order and stability of that country will face ruin, just as surely as the regime they once served.”

The U.S. and its coalition allies are determined, said President Bush, that Iraq “will be secure, and the people of Iraq will run their own country.”