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Iraqi Governing Council Holds First Meeting

By Casie Vinall
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2003 – Iraq has taken a first step toward self-government after decades of tyrannical rule by Saddam Hussein's regime.

A new governing council was established in Baghdad yesterday to represent the will of the Iraqi people. The council was set up in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483.

"Regardless of the differences that existed between nations before the war, now we have a challenge," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said during a July 14 White House meeting with President Bush. "The challenge is to stabilize Iraq, to help Iraq become a peaceful, stable and prosperous state, and I think everyone needs to help.

"An Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors is in the interests of the neighbors and the entire international community," Annan said. "And so I would want to see the entire community, international community, come together to assist the Iraqi people and to help stabilize the region."

The United States intends to "stay the course" and work to ensure success in Iraq, President Bush told reporters.

"The United States (will) stay the course because we believe freedom is on its way to the Iraqi people," he said, "and by that I mean that the Iraqi people are beginning to assume more and more responsibility in their society.

"A free society requires a certain kind of responsible behavior, and we're seeing more and more of that amongst the Iraqi citizens," he added. "Our deep desire is to make sure that the infrastructure is repaired, that people are educated (and) that the health-care delivery systems are good."

The governing council attributes its inception to "intensive efforts by Iraqi organizations and personalities from all political streams and backgrounds," according to a statement released following its first meeting in Baghdad July 13.

"The goal was to form a body, in consultation with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the representative of the U.N. secretary general, which was representative of the makeup of the Iraqi people," the statement noted.

Council members were appointed from various backgrounds and nominated after provisional authorities conferred with Iraqis, the council said. The council consists of 25 members, among which are Shiite, Sunni and secular representatives.

The council will serve as an "expression of the national Iraqi will in the wake of the collapse of the former oppressive regime," according to the statement.

"This collapse was due to the struggle and brave sacrifices of our people and the intervention of the international coalition forces," the council stated. "The building of the new Iraq shall remain among the first priorities of the good Iraqi people. It will require the participation of all Iraqis, from all political and social strands, who are willing to help accomplish this historic task."

The body aims to work toward constructing an "atmosphere for holding general elections that will lead to the establishment of an effective government enjoying full authority and responsibility and thus restoring Iraq's sovereignty and independence."

This is a "first step" toward progress Adnoun Al-Bachechi, one of the newly appointed members, told Voice of America July 13. The council will be responsible for addressing issues such as unemployment and financial decisions, he said.

It will also create and carry out essential laws, such as "the broad outlines of a constitution, election laws, population census (and) law for the formation of political parties" he added.

The council's task should not be underestimated, council members stated. "Rebuilding Iraq will require the greatest degree of cooperation and cohesion among members of the country.

"We must give precedence to national interests over any other considerations in the interest of reconstructing a new Iraq where our people will enjoy their full rights under a unified and secure federal and democratic regime living in peace with its people and neighbors," the council said.

The group is intended to be an interim step in the development of Iraq's new government, Bachechi said. In about a year's time, he noted, a greater assembly will draft a new constitution and there will be national elections.

(Casie Vinall is an intern working for DefendAmerica.mil in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.)

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