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Iraqi VP Expresses Appreciation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 20, 2005 – Iraq's interim vice president expressed appreciation today for the support provided to his country through Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"We, the Iraqi people, are in our democratic infancy," said Ibrahim al-Jaffari on the second anniversary of the operation. "And as we take our first steps, we appreciate the protection and help that enable us to move forward to our democratic future."

During an interview earlier this month with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, he called security and reconstruction two of the most important issues facing Iraq. "Security is the main priority in Iraq," Jaffari said, adding that lack of security taints the government's image and "gives an impression of weakness."

Iraq needs to deal with its insurgency, he said, both by better protecting its borders and by addressing the issues that entice the jobless to turn to the resistance for money. "These people have been brainwashed with the culture that killing and blood are the solutions," Jaffari said.

The vice president acknowledged that Iraq is not yet capable of protecting itself and still needs the coalition to help provide security. "If they leave, the situation could really get worse," he said of the coalition.

Iraq will ask the coalition to leave "at the right time," he said, but only after it has built "a good force to protect the country." He said the coalition presence in Iraq is likely to decrease "step by step" as Iraq's own security forces gain capability.

Restoring Iraq's infrastructure is also critical to the country's future, Jaffari said. "We wish to use all the experience of Iraqis for reconstruction, and we will ask foreign countries to invest with Iraqis and help in reconstruction," he said.

As the country addresses these and other issues and moves toward the future, Jaffari said he sees a better future.

"Iraq was waiting for a new birth and it got it on the 30 January of this year," he said, adding that he hopes the next elections will see even more voter participation as the country's security situation improves.

"Iraq took its first step in building its future, not only politically, but socially," he said. "I see Iraq's future full with brightness and happiness."

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