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9/12/04 - THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT  - 2004-09-13

Iraq’s National Council has met for the first time. The one-hundred member council will help govern Iraq until elections are held in 2005. Rosh Shawais, the Council’s vice president, says that the first meeting marks “a vital step on the way of the democratic process, and of building up our new Iraq.”

Council member Younadim Kanna says that Iraq’s interim government is more representative than the governments of Iraq’s neighbors:

“Among all Arabian-Islamic countries, it is more legitimate. Most of them came by military coup d’etat and we are here, all the diversities, all Iraqi diversities, religious or ethnic or political diversities and geographic diversities. So it is not the best, but it is a possible one for now in the transition period.”

Even while Iraq’s National Council held its opening session, the sound of explosions could be heard in the distance. Hamid Majid Musa, head of the Iraqi Communist Party, told the Washington Post newspaper that “Shells and mortars exploding around us will not make us afraid.” Council member Muhammad Rida Ghurayfi, a Shiite cleric and associate of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, told his fellow members, “Iraq is now breaking down, and you are the ones who can heal the wounds.”

President George W. Bush says, “Iraq now faces a critical moment”:

“There are difficult days ahead, and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic. Yet our coalition is strong, our efforts are focused and unrelenting, and no power of the enemy will stop Iraq’s progress.”

Helping to build a stable democracy in Iraq after decades of dictatorship is a massive undertaking. But, “Whenever people are given a choice in the matter,” says President Bush, “they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear.”