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1/16/04 - IRAQ’S NEW DIRECTION - 2004-01-20

Iraqis are getting more and more involved in regaining their governing authority. Hundreds of town meetings are being held so that Iraqi citizens can meet with Iraqi political leaders and coalition officials to discuss the process of self-government.

Under the “Agreement on Political Process” signed by members of the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority, power is to be turned over to a transitional government in Iraq no later than July 2004.

The agreement specifies that a Transitional National Assembly will be elected by May 31st and will replace the Iraqi Governing Council. The Coalition Provisional Authority will disband on June 30th, 2004, when the Assembly will assume “full sovereign powers for governing Iraq.”

As the process goes forward, Iraqis are voicing a variety of opinions. This diversity, says Daniel Senor, the Coalition Provisional Authority's senior adviser, is "a healthy sign”:

“Individuals and political leaders and religious leaders have for the first time [the ability] to speak freely and articulate an agenda and articulate their own vision for the way Iraq should look.... [W]e view that as healthy and as something for the Governing Council to engage with those leaders about.”

Criticism, says Mr. Senor, provides an opportunity for the Governing Council to discuss with Iraqi leaders how best to bring democracy to Iraq:

“The Governing Council may have discussions with various leaders about how best to get there, what procedures are in place or what needs to be put in place in order to get there. But the political leaders and the religious leaders we’re hearing from share the basic principles with us about the need for a democratic, free Iraq."

“This is a very sensitive time in Iraq, says Ghanim al-Basso, the provincial governor in Mosul, “But democracy is a new word for us.”