Iraqis Moving Toward Free, Inclusive Government
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2003 More than 300 delegates representing a cross-section of Iraqi society yesterday hashed out plans for the formation of an interim government at an all-day meeting in Baghdad.
The Baghdad meeting was follow-on to an April 15 Iraqi leadership gathering in Nasiriyah attended by U.S. diplomatic envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the head of the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.
Both U.S. officials also attended the Baghdad meeting -- held on the date of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's birthday -- where Iraqi delegates voted to meet again within a month's time.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz noted at an April 25 press conference here that the meetings are stepping-stones to the formation of "a government of the Iraqi people, by the Iraqi people and for the Iraqi people."
Wolfowitz noted that Iraqi delegates produced a written agreement at the Nasiriyah meeting containing 13 principles for reference in forming a new, free Iraqi government:
First, Iraq must be democratic.
Second, the future government of Iraq should not be based on communal identity, as evidenced during the rule of Saddam Hussein, whose regime heavily promoted his birthplace of Tikrit and his hometown cronies.
Third, the future government of Iraq should be organized as a democratic, federal system, but with countrywide consultation and input.
Fourth, the rule of law must be paramount.
Fifth, Iraq must be built on respect for diversity, including respect for the role of women.
Sixth, the meeting discussed the role of religion in state and society.
Seventh, the meeting discussed the principle that Iraqis must choose their leaders, not have them imposed from outside.
Eighth, political violence must be rejected and that Iraqis immediately organize themselves for the task of reconstruction at both the local and national levels.
Ninth, Iraqis and the coalition must work together to tackle the immediate issues of restoring security and basic services.
Tenth, that the Ba'ath Party must be dissolved and its effects on Iraqi society must be eliminated.
Eleventh, that there should be an open dialogue with all national political groups, to bring them into the Iraqi political process.
Twelfth, that the meeting condemns the looting that has taken place and the destruction of documents.
Thirteenth, there would be another meeting, with more Iraqi participants, to discuss procedures for developing an Iraqi interim authority.
The meeting referred to in the 13th principle occurred April 28 in Baghdad. Wolfowitz called it "a meeting of Iraqis who are exercising their newfound freedom to speak." He observed that it was the second in "a series of inclusive meetings, open to Iraqis, to be held throughout the country."
As Iraqis discuss how they will govern themselves in the post-Saddam era, Wolfowitz noted that such events please the United States and its coalition partners.
"The United States and other coalition countries have no interest in governing or occupying Iraq," the deputy defense secretary insisted, adding that U.S. forces would stay in Iraq "not one day longer" than necessary.
He pointed out that Saddam's fall from power would produce an Iraqi government "that preserves the territorial integrity of the country, that uses the resources of the country for the benefit of the Iraqi people, and that poses no threat to Iraq's neighbors."
An interim Iraqi government, Wolfowitz explained, "will lead the way to the formation of a democratic government for a free Iraq; to work on drafting a constitution, on developing a legal reform agenda, an economic reform agenda, (and) organizing elections."