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U.S. Ambassador Welcomes Iraqi Assembly Vote Certification

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2006 – The new Iraqi national assembly must bring all Iraqis together to ensure a stable and prosperous future, Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq said.

"The national unity government will need to implement a program that brings all Iraqis together, builds a happy future for the people of Iraq, and gets Iraq to stand on its own feet," Khalilzad said in a Feb. 10 statement as he welcomed the announcement of the final certified results of Iraq's Dec. 15 legislative elections.

"We hope that this will be a government based on national unity, formed without regard to sectarianism, committed to peace and with capable ministers who place loyalty to Iraq above that of loyalty to faction," Khalilzad added.

In a Feb. 12 Los Angeles Times opinion piece, Khalilzad outlined a political blueprint for Iraq and further advocated the importance of unity.

"Iraq's leaders need to agree on a true national compact for their country -- a vision and set of political rules that will produce stability and progress," he wrote.

Since the U.S. removed Saddam Hussein from power in 2003, one key challenge has been to overcome mistrust and fear among disparate Iraqi groups, but progress is now under way to bridge these differences, Khalilzad wrote.

"Thanks in part to systematic outreach efforts by the United States, Sunnis have undergone a sea change in attitude about participating in post-Hussein governance, culminating in their massive turnout in the December elections," Khalilzad continued. "They have come to understand that the U.S. is not seeking to occupy their country permanently, and many have been convinced that protracted violence would destroy their country's future."

The ambassador also emphasized the need for the new government to bring political minorities into the power sharing mix, and the need for government officials to be chosen on the basis of merit, not on their ethnic or sectarian background.

In addition, Khalilzad touched on the issue of how to bring insurgents who are willing to disarm into the political process.

"As the insurgents shift away from armed struggle, they are seeking assurances that regional powers will not be allowed to dominate Iraq and that Iraqi leaders will limit de-Baathification to high-ranking officials, integrating all those who did not commit crimes into mainstream society," Khalilzad wrote.

"This not only opens the door for insurgents to permanently renounce violence and join the political process in order to stabilize Iraq, it also isolates the terrorists who are the enemy of all Iraqis, while setting the stage for the emergence of a strong and independent Iraq," Khalilzad added.

The 275 newly elected lawmakers will take their seats in the legislative body, known as the Council of Representatives, later this month. They were elected to serve a four-year term. A first order of business under Iraq's new constitution will be to select the new Iraqi president and deputy presidents.

"I congratulate the Iraqi people on having arrived at this historic moment," Khalilzad said. "The U.S. is proud of the role we have played in helping Iraqis achieve this success."

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Zalmay Khalilzad

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