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12/13/03 - SOVEREIGNTY AND SECURITY IN IRAQ - 2003-12-16

More than one-hundred-forty-thousand Iraqis are now involved in providing security as members of the new Iraqi army, police, border guards and civil defense forces. But while security remains a top priority, returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people is the ultimate goal.

The U.S.-led coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to implement the November 15th agreement that lays the foundation for a democratic Iraq. The agreement calls for re-establishing Iraqi sovereignty no later than July 2004. Drafters of a new Iraqi constitution would be elected by March 2005, and a new Iraqi government would be elected by January 2006.

The Governing Council has set up committees to begin the process of drafting a “Fundamental Law” and is looking at the preparations needed for an Iraqi constitutional convention. Among other things, the “Fundamental Law” will have a bill of rights that includes freedom of speech and religion, due process, and equal rights for all Iraqis regardless of gender, religion, or ethnic background. The “Fundamental Law” will also provide for a federal system of government with separation of executive and legislative powers and an independent judiciary.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the process now underway will return decision-making power in Iraq to Iraqis themselves:

“We’ve always said that we are moving as quickly as possible to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And as they are able to assume more and more responsibility, we want to turn more and more authority over to the Iraqi people. And they are doing that in a number of areas, from the Iraqi Governing Council in the steps they are taking, to the local councils they’ve established throughout the country, to the schools being opened, hospitals running, to ministers being appointed by the Governing Council.”

As Dr. Said Hakki, senior advisor to Iraq’s Ministry of Health, says, “This country was under thirty-five years of suppression, torture, [and] intimidation. Now,” says Dr. Said, Iraq “is recovering and every day it gets better."