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6/5/04 - RICE ON IRAQ - 2004-06-07

Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar, president of the interim government of Iraq, says that he wants the United Nations to help “rebuild a free, independent, democratic and federal, united homeland.” The interim government, which represents a broad cross section of Iraqis, held its first cabinet meeting on June 2nd. Five of the thirty-three newly named cabinet ministers are regional officials; six are women.

Sovereignty will be turned over to President Yawar, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and the other members of the interim government on June 30th. At that time, says U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Iraq will “take responsibility for its own democratic development”:

“These are not America’s puppets. These are independent-minded Iraqis who are determined to take their country to security and democracy. That’s why we liberated Iraq, to begin a process by which the Iraqis can have leadership that can speak on their behalf, act on their behalf.”

“The hope is that this government will prove its worthiness and integrity and its firm readiness to perform the mammoth tasks it is burdened with”, says Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a prominent Shiite cleric. The new government,” he says, “will not have popular acceptance unless it proves through practical and clear steps that it seeks diligently and seriously to achieve these tasks.”

The important thing in Iraq, says National Security Adviser Rice, “is that the political process is underway and it’s continuing”:

“We now have a functioning government in Iraq that will be able to work with us to do what we all want to do, which is to bring security to Iraq, to bring elections to Iraq, to bring democratic development to Iraq, and to make it a stable, prosperous and democratic country.”

Many challenges remain in Iraq. Among them is the issue of security. But as President George W. Bush says, the U.S. “will stand with the Iraqi people in defeating the enemies of freedom and those who oppose democracy in Iraq.”