World Community Pledges to Support Free, Democratic Iraq
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 24, 2005 More than 80 nations and organizations from around the world gathered in Brussels, Belgium, June 22 to support the Iraqi transitional government and its vision and priorities for the future.
"This conference is a another strong expression of the support the international community is lending to Iraq," European Union president Jean Asselborn said at a news conference following the event.
"We are determined to fully support Iraqi efforts to achieve a democratic, federal, pluralist and unified Iraq. We also reaffirmed our commitment to the independence, sovereignty an territory integrity of the country," Asselborn said, quoting from a statement issued jointly by all participants.
The International Conference on Iraq was co-hosted by the United States and the European Union and organized at the request of Iraqi authorities. The idea began with President Bush's Feb. 22 visit to Brussels, when the EU and the United States agreed to provide a forum for the new Iraqi government to engage the international community, if it so wished.
The meeting was structured around three themes outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546, which set forth the timetable for Iraq's transition to representative government. The main areas of discussion, led by Iraq, were the political process in Iraq, economic challenges and reconstruction, and public order and rule of law.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the Iraqi government for the vision and commitment to democracy it laid before the international community.
"We heard a vision for the future from the elected Iraqi government, from its ministers, from members of its opposition, which demonstrates that this is an Iraq that is, indeed, well on its way to democracy," Rice said.
"We heard of a vision of an Iraq based on the rule of law," Rice continued, "where human rights and individual rights are secured. ... We heard a devotion to a process that began with the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people less than a year ago -- and it's important to emphasize that return of sovereignty was less than a year ago."
And, the secretary added, the international community learned what it needs to do to support that vision.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also had high praise for Iraq's efforts. "A sovereign, elected Iraqi government has presented the international community with a comprehensive view of Iraq's future, its vision," he said. "In response, we have all jointly declared that we will work with Iraq to help meet the priorities and the expectations of the Iraqi people." Annan noted that natyions participating in the conference had promised to be "full partners in the emergence of a new Iraq."
"We are determined to help the Iraqis fashion a truly inclusive process," he said, "one which makes a real difference on the ground and convinces all Iraqis that they have a stake in the new Iraq."
Rice underscored Annan's remarks. "This is a new chapter for the international community, and for Iraq," she said, "as we lay the foundation today for a new international partnership for the people of Iraq on their journey toward democracy."
In addition to financial and humanitarian assistance, members of the European Union offered to assist with the political and constitutional process, to help train judges police and prison officers, and to build up Iraq's security capabilities. Egypt and Jordan announced they would send ambassadors to Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait said they would move toward restoring full diplomatic relations.
The International Conference on Iraq did not solicit donations, but a follow-up meeting will be held in Amman, Jordan, July 17-18 to firm up commitments from several nations that pledged aid or agreed to consider debt relief.
"Today was a good day for Iraq," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said at the end of the conference. Iraq faces many challenges, he said, but the international solidarity demonstrated at the conference will make it even more determined to achieve its goals.
"The differences over the war, I think, are behind now," he continued. "We are all looking forward to the future."